LAHORE: In a detailed verdict on the dismissal of petitions seeking release of Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir ShakilurRehman in a 34-year-old land allotment case, the Lahore High Court (LHC) has observed that no immunity from accountability is available to any person, particularly when facing a charge of causing loss to the public exchequer and misuse of public power.
“There is no law conferring immunity from criminal prosecution. The information laid before the accountability court was not false, which raised suspicion that petitioner committed the offence within the purview of National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 and, thus, his custody can neither be termed as illegal nor improper for the purpose of maintaining a constitutional petition to declare his arrest as unlawful,” rules the verdict released by a two-judge bench comprising Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem and Justice FarooqHaider.
Through a short order, the bench had on Tuesday dismissed two identical petitions challenging the arrest of the media mogul and his physical remand granted to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) by the accountability court. The petitions were filed by MrRehman and his wife through Barrister AitzazAhsan and Advocate AmjadPervaiz.
Says petitioner may avail remedy for release on bail at appropriate stage
The bench rejected all the arguments and grounds presented by the petitioners’ counsel, including a challenge to the issuance of arrest warrants by the NAB chairman and the jurisdiction of the bureau to probe into a 34-year-old transaction.
The bench also brushed aside another argument that the petitioner had been implicated in the case for being head of a media group, which continued factual reporting of events, including audio/video tapes, against the NAB chairman.
“It was a mere assertion and no admissible material was available on record in support of such assertion,” observed the bench.
The bench did not agree with another argument from the petitioners’ side about the alleged misreading and misinterpretation of the exception policy of the Lahore Development Authority.
It ruled that the inquiry in question was not regarding a business or business transaction, thus the petitioner could not make out a case to avail the benefit of the NAB’s policy/standard operating procedures to deal with cases of businessmen.
The bench observed that the judgements cited by the counsel were not identical to the facts and circumstances of the case in hand.
“It may be mentioned that as the matter is still being enquired and at its initial stage, however, the petitioner may avail the remedy for his release on bail at appropriate stage, if so advised,” said the bench in its verdict and also clarified that observations made in the decision shall not influence the trial court.
The NAB has alleged that the media tycoon illegally obtained exemption of 54 plots each measuring one kanal situated in Block H, Johar Town. The land had been allotted in connivance with the then chief minister Nawaz Sharif against the exemption policy and the laws for financial gains. It claimed that no one could get more than 15 kanals of land under the exemption policy. MrRehman is on physical remand with the NAB till April 18.
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