On Monday, Supreme Court Justice Mansoor Ali Shah emphasized that members of the armed forces and judges of constitutional courts are fully accountable under the country’s accountability laws. He made this assertion in a dissenting note regarding the Supreme Court’s September 15 verdict, in which changes to the accountability laws were struck down, and corruption cases against public office holders were ordered to be reinstated.
In the dissenting note, Justice Shah mentioned that not only should corruption cases be restored, but also inquiries and investigations. Throughout the case proceedings, he had advocated for a full court to hear the case, citing the then-frozen Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) law.
The Supreme Court is now scheduled to hear the first-ever intra-court appeals (ICAs) against the majority judgment, filed by the federal government and former SSGCL managing director Zuhair Ahmed Siddiqui.
In his detailed note, Justice Shah concluded that the petition filed by Imran Khan was “meritless.” He stated that the petitioner’s counsel failed to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that the challenged amendments in the NAB Ordinance were constitutionally invalid.
Justice Shah also addressed the issue of accountability for members of the armed forces and judges of the constitutional courts. He stressed that the generally held opinion that they are not subject to anti-corruption laws would make them untouchable and above the law, which would be reprehensible and bring the court into disrepute. He asserted that members of the armed forces and judges of constitutional courts are fully liable under the NAB Ordinance, just like any other public servant in Pakistan.
Justice Shah pointed out that public office holders are still subject to other laws, including the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947 and the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 for alleged corruption offenses.
He also noted that the challenged amendments did not infringe on fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Justice Shah argued that the mode of holding elected representatives accountable for corruption offenses is governed by sub-constitutional laws such as the PPC, the PCA, and the NAB Ordinance, which the Parliament has the authority to enact, amend, modify, or repeal.
Regarding the threshold value for an offense to be investigated and tried under the NAB Ordinance, Justice Shah emphasized that this issue falls within the exclusive policy domain of the legislature and is not for the courts to determine. He stated that it is not the role of the courts to define what constitutes a “mega scandal” under the NAB Ordinance.
The Supreme Court’s verdict had restored inquiries, investigations, and references to their positions before the amendments, deeming them pending before relevant forums. It ordered NAB and accountability courts to proceed with the restored proceedings according to the law.
Justice Shah’s dissenting note clarifies his stance on these matters and highlights the need to ensure accountability and the rule of law for all, including members of the armed forces and judges.