ISLAMABAD: The law may provide clear guidelines for the appointment of chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB), but there is no clear mechanism for the removal of the graft watchdog’s chief, according to legal experts.
As Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supporters demand removal of NAB Chairman Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal, legal experts points to the ambiguity in the law regarding his removal.
According to Section 6 of NAB Ordinance, the chairman shall not be removed except on the grounds of removal of a Supreme Court judge.
Likewise, legal experts also argue that in view of the above provision, the chairman shall be removed over the same reasons as a judge of the apex court as mentioned in the SC Judges’ Misconduct 2009. However, there is no separate mechanism provided for the removal of chairman NAB in the law. Even it is not mentioned that the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) could be a forum regarding his removal.
In Asfand Yar Wali case 2001/02, the top court had directed the federal government to insert conditions regarding the removal of the NAB boss where the government ‘left out’ the procedure for the graft watchdog’s chief.
Interestingly, the Constitution is also silent about the removal of chairman NAB. Article 209 talks about the removal of judges and auditor general of Pakistan through SJC.
Likewise, another article allows for the removal of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) members by the SJC. However, there is again no mention of the removal of NAB chairman through the council.
In the Panamagate case judgment, acting Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had also noted that the direction for initiating proceedings against chairman NAB under Article 209 of the Constitution may involve some jurisdictional issues.
A section of the lawyers believes if the law is silent, the appointing authority (President of Pakistan) may remove the person under General Clauses Act, 1897.
PTI lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain, who had filed a complaint before the SJC for the removal of former chairman NAB Qamar Zaman Chaudhry last year, also believes there is ambiguity on the matter.
The matter requires further legislation and an SC interpretation could also be helpful in the context, says the PTI lawyer, adding that it would be interesting to see whether SC, while deducing the NAB law, could make up for such a vast omission.
It is also learnt that when the SJC took up complaint against the former NAB chairman last year, top judges had discussed this lack of mechanism.
Meanwhile, the SC Registrar Office returned a petition moved by a PML-N worker to oust the incumbent NAB chief, Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal.
The Registrar Office raised two objections, one of which stated that the petitioner did not approach any ‘appropriate’ forum for action without providing justification for not doing so.
A PML-N leader on Saturday filed a petition in the SC seeking removal of Iqbal for “leveling baseless allegations of money laundering against Nawaz Sharif”.
The petition filed by Noor Mohammad Awan under Article 184(3) of the Constitution prayed that the court remove the NAB chairman for “damaging reputation of a political leader without any cogent material and causing reckless loss to the institution as he could not hold office due to partiality and unable to work with fairness”.
The petition further read that politicians generally level baseless allegations against their rivals to secure political goals and motives. “The removal [of NAB chairman] is inevitable to meet the ends of justice,” it adds.
On May 8, the NAB chairman, taking notice of money laundering allegations, ordered an investigation against former premier Nawaz Sharif. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) had categorically rejected a report that suggests an outflow of $4.9 billion from Pakistan to India as remittances, terming the report contrary to the facts.