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SC bars authorities from transfers, appointments in criminal cases

The Supreme Court has barred the authorities from making new appointments and transferring officials involved in "high-profile" and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases and those being heard by special courts.

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The directives came on Thursday as a five-judge larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, took up the suo motu case on the apprehensions that people in positions of authority might undermine criminal justice.

The bench also comprised Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar.

The court further directed the FIA, and NAB to seal records of prosecution and investigations besides also issuing orders against withdrawing any case from the courts until further orders.

Read more: SC takes suo motu on ‘interference’ in criminal cases

Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial expressed concerns over the transfers and appointments in high-profile cases.

The court also issued notices to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) director-general, the NAB chairman, and the interior secretary.

The CJP observed that there should be “no interference in the prosecution process or the prosecution wing” during the hearing.

The CJP also said that FIA’s former director Mohammad Rizwan, who was probing the money laundering charges against PM Shehbaz Sharif and his son Punjab Chief Minister Hamza Shahbaz, was transferred and later died of a heart attack.

“We are concerned over these developments,” the CJP said.

Justice Bandial also stated that according to news reports, “thousands” of people had benefitted after their names were removed from the no-fly list. The Supreme Court sought details of the names included and withdrawn from the list.

The CJP also stated that the suo motu was not meant to embarrass or hold anyone responsible. “It is meant to protect the criminal justice system and the rule of law,” he observed.

Read more: Ex-FIA director Dr. Rizwan passes away

The court wants the implementation of Article 10-A (right to a fair trial) and Article 4 (due process), he said. Justice Bandial added that notices were being issued to the parties concerned.

He also expressed the hope that the federal government would cooperate in giving an explanation.

On Wednesday, CJP Bandial took notice of perceived interference in the “independence of the prosecution branch in the performance of its powers and duties for the investigation and prosecution of pending criminal matters involving persons in authority in the government.”

The statement issued by the apex court said the Chief Justice took notice of the perceived interference following the recommendations of a Supreme Court judge.