No option but to suspend IHC verdict in Avenfield reference: CJP

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No option but to suspend IHC verdict in Avenfield reference: CJP

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Tuesday observed that the Supreme Court had no option but to suspend the Islamabad High Court's ruling suspending the accountability court's verdict against the Sharif family members in the Avenfield property reference.

The CJP gave the remarks while heading an SC bench which heard a National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) appeal challenging the IHC decision of suspending the sentences given to former premier Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar in the corruption reference.

The apex court bench directed the Sharif family's counsel to submit written arguments on the matter till November 12.

The CJP said, "Prima facie the IHC had spoiled the country’s jurisprudence by suspending an accountability court’s verdict in the corruption reference but now we have no other option but to suspend the IHC's ruling."

"Doctors have advised me rest but I am here keeping in view the importance of the case, as it is not a matter of an individual but a matter of principle. My life is for my the country and I will work for it ," he remarked

Justice Nisar observed the IHC used strict language in the judgment like "such decision could not be maintained." Whether the IHC was the final court, he asked.

He said the Sharif family members had adopted four different versions in the case, sometimes they presented a Qatari prince's letter and sometimes something else.

When it was established that the London property belonged to the Sharif family then it was their duty to reveal the sources of their income which were used to purchase the flats. "Money does not grow on trees," he added.

The CJP observed that the IHC did not bother to look into the judicial precedents.

Addressing Khawaja Haris, counsel for the Sharif family, the CJP said prima facie the high court decision seemed to be non-maintainable.

The CJP asked the counsel to point out any illegality in the accountability court's verdict that could cause suspension of the sentence. In his career, he had never seen such a judgment like that of the IHC, he added.

Justice Nisar questioned as to how the IHC could say there were ‘defects’ in the accountability court’s verdict.

Khawaja Haris responded that the accountability court in its verdict did not mention the value of the property in question. To establish that a criminal offence had been committed, the NAB prosecutor should have proved that the Sharif family's assets were beyond their known sources of income, he added.

To this, the CJP said it was the respondents' duty to explain that the apartments were not bought from the amount which was not beyond their known sources of income.

Justice Nisar also wondered as to why the Panamagate case was referred to an accountability court and not the Supreme Court for a final ruling.

Meanwhile, the NAB prosecutor objected to Khawaja Haris's arguments that in appeals, merits of the case could not be discussed. In the NAB corruption cases, bail could only be granted to the accused in exceptional cases or in rare circumstances when risk to life of the accused was there.

The chief Justice while endorsing the prosecutor's arguments, said how could an appeal court revisit the evidences recorded before the trial court, but the IHC did it. The apex court would examine whether the IHC decision was given on merit or not.

Subsequently, the bench directed the Sharif family's counsel to submit their written responses and adjourned the case till November 12.

APP