Supreme Court’s five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan () Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, had taken suo motu notice on apprehensions that criminal justice might be undermined by people in authority.
During today’s hearing, the court directed the federal government to bring the recent changes in the ECL rules under the legal ambit within seven days. Will issue an order if the directives were not followed, the court warned. Chief Justice Umar Ata Justice Bandial said if an agency was investigating someone, the government should hold discussions with it prior to removing the person’s name from the ECL. When the attorney general said names were put on the ECL on NAB’s instructions, the chief justice said it meant the anti-graft watchdog considered the matter prior to issuing instructions. “NAB does not put every suspect’s name on the ECL. According to NAB, the names of people who looted billions were removed.” ‘How can decisions be taken for personal benefit?’ said the Chief Justice. Meanwhile, Justice Akhtar asked whether an amendment should be carried out if the relatives and friends of those who were doing it benefitted from it. He also asked why there was a hurry to remove names from the ECL. “There is no mention of the amendments being applied from past dates. How can ministers whose names are on the ECL decide to remove them?” the court questioned.
In a written order issued earlier this week, the Apex Court had observed that it appeared the amendments in the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Rules of 2010 had been enforced with retrospective effect. “This appears to have been done without the authorization necessary for giving such an effect to amendments in the rules,” during today’s hearing, Chief Justice Bandial said the government should take adequate steps to bring the amendments within the ambit of the law. “We do not want to interfere in executive powers right now.”
Earlier, Chief Justice Supreme Court had taken suo motu notice of the recommendations of an SC judge on perceived interference in the independence of the prosecution branch in the performance of its power and duties for investigation and prosecution of pending criminal matters involving persons in authority in government. According to a press release issued by the apex court, such interference could influence the prosecution of cases, result in tampering or disappearance of evidence in courts or in possession of prosecuting agencies and lead to transfers and postings of officers on key posts. The press release said that such actions, along with “media reports” about changes in accountability laws, were likely to “undermine” the functioning of the country’s criminal justice system. “That [is tantamount] to violation of fundamental rights affecting the society as a whole and eroding [of] the confidence of the people in the rule of law and constitutionalism in the country,” it added
It is to remind that the federal government had introduced significant changes to the rules controlling citizens’ exit from the country in an attempt to end the practice of keeping people on the no-fly list for years and even for over a decade, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had said. The chief justice remarked that the court was aware the government had “freed” a person it had instructed to be jailed, without naming that person. When the attorney general argued that the reference against the said person was from 2018, the CJP noted the SC’s order was from 2021.