The Supreme Court (SC) set aside on Tuesday the Registrar Office’s objections on former president Asif Zardari’s application seeking transfer of corruption cases against him from Islamabad’s accountability court to Karachi.
The order was given by SC’s Justice Umar Ata Bandial while hearing the plea in his chamber.
Zardari’s counsel, Farooq H Naek appeared on behalf of the former president. After hearing his arguments, the SC judge allowed the appeal and ordered the Registrar’s Office to fix the main application before a bench within two weeks.
Earlier, on November 3, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman had approached the apex court and requested to transfer the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) Toshakhana – gift repository – reference from Islamabad’s Accountability Court No III to a court in Karachi in view of his ill health.
The apex court, while hearing a suo motu case related to fake accounts, had ordered to conduct a trial of the accused persons in Islamabad. The court had rejected review petitions against its order.
The Registrar Officer had earlier declared the civil miscellaneous appeal (CMA) as “not entertainable” and returned the CMA along with the paper books.
According to the SC office, the application was not entertainable as NAB – the prosecution in the case – filed the reference in view of an order of the Supreme Court.
It said the top court had already rejected Zardari’s previous application to transfer the graft cases to Karachi courts. It said the SC rules forbid refilling a review application.
The PPP leader challenged the SC office’s order on November 10, claiming it was not sustainable in law and case law, as enunciated by the Supreme Court.
The appeal said it is the constitutional right of the appellant to knock the door of the top court, but the SC’s Registrar Office order shows that the rights of the appellant have been blocked at the institutional level, which is not a practice of the court.
It said the order is based on a misconception of law and rules framed by the apex court as the question of returning an application on non-maintainability relates to the judicial work which cannot be taken up on the executive side or through delegation of powers for exercising judicial work.
“The impugned order has been signed by Assistant Registrar (Civil-II) for Registrar which is violative of Order 5, Rule 1 of Supreme Court Rules, 1980,” the application stated. It said a perusal of Order 5 Rule 1 of SC rules shows that the power of returning the application in original along with paper books is not within the ambit and power of an assistant registrar, questioning as to how can then an assistant registrar return it then.
“It is respectfully prayed that this honorable court may kindly accept the appeal filed by the appellant and set aside the order dated 10-11-2020,” the application maintains.
In his application, the PPP leader had also claimed that he had been implicated in false, fabricated and politically motivated cases to exact vengeance.
The application stated that “throughout the course of history, the former president had been made to suffer on account of political victimisation and mudslinging by involving him in false and fabricated cases”.
“The petitioner has time and again been made the target of political vendetta and vengeance. He has seen the rigours of jail numerous times in false and politically motivated cases for accumulative period of about eleven years and has done so having faith in the independence of judiciary and the justice system of Pakistan. It is pertinent to mention here that he was acquitted in all the fabricated and concocted cases made against him,” his plea further read.
The application maintained that Zardari was suffering from various ailments and had been seriously ill.
“He is about 65 years of age and is a chronic patient suffering from various ailments including but not limited to cardiovascular disease insofar as he has three stents in his heart, he also suffers from ischemic heart disease, high blood pressure, sensory peripheral and autonomic neuropathy, he is hypoglycemic (having unstable low blood sugar) and has diabetes, and Holter Monitor is attached in his arm.
“Moreover, the petitioner also has lumber and cervical spondylosis (spine disease). The applicant further suffers from arthritis and his platelet count is not stable. This is substantiated from certificates and report of medical board formed by Islamabad High Court. Despite the fact that all the accused persons, witnesses and documents are from Karachi and the subject matter of the said reference is related to Sindh province,” said the application.
It was also stated that there was evidence of substantial prejudice to the applicant as well as witnesses if the references were not transferred.
“Karachi (Sindh) would not handicap the state/NAB and would rather mitigate the serious difficulties of the applicant to have a fair and impartial trial in a more congenial atmosphere,” the application read.
The PPP co-chairperson is facing multiple corruption cases that stemmed from a mega money laundering scandal, which came to the front in 2018.