SC blocks rehiring of Deedar as NAB chief
By Nasir Iqbal
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court blocked the government’s attempt to reappoint Justice (retd) Deedar Hussain Shah as chairman of the National Accountability Bureau when it ruled on Tuesday that the former apex court judge stood disqualified to be appointed to the office again.
In its detailed judgment, the court explained the reasons for holding the appointment of Justice Shah as illegal on March 10 on petitions filed by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and private citizen Shahid Orakzai.
A three-judge bench comprising Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed and Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had through a short order directed Mr Shah to immediately leave the office he had assumed five months earlier after another legal row in which the court had ordered the removal of his predecessor.
Authored by Justice Khosa, the verdict also criticised the law minister for handling the appointment of Justice Shah in a manner which showed shallow and perfunctory understanding of the Constitution. And in the process, it added, the former judge of the apex court suffered for no fault of his own.
“It was because of his two appointments to that office, both botched and messed up by law ministry’s wrong legal advice to the relevant quarters, that he (Deedar Shah) now stands disqualified to be appointed to that office again on account of the provision regarding ‘non-extendable period’ contained in Section 6(b)(i) of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, as interpreted through another judgment of the court handed down in the case of The Bank of Punjab versus Haris Steel Industries (Pvt) Ltd.”
The verdict also reiterated the importance of consultation with the Chief Justice of Pakistan in the appointment of NAB chairman and expressed the hope that recommendations and suggestions made by the apex court through different judgments from time to time would be given effect to in future appointments.
“We entertain no manner of doubt that anybody interested in making an honest and good appointment to that office will not feel shy of consulting the CJP in that connection,” the judgment said.
About consultation with the opposition leader, it said the purpose essentially was to pacify apprehensions of the political opposition about its possible victimisation or persecution, but the same would be meaningless if the opinion of the opposition leader was bulldozed.
The verdict said: “The spirit of such consultation should aim at developing a consensus and it should manifestly be shown that a serious, sincere and genuine effort was made to evolve a consensus. Otherwise, it will neither be meaningful nor consensus-oriented.
“Similarly, corruption being an unfortunate bane of our society in the current phase of our history and even the high public offices being not immune from serious allegations, leaving such appointment in the hands of those very persons who could possibly, in future or present, be a subject of inquiries, investigations or trials for corruption would, apart from giving rise to the issue of conflict of interest, defeat the very object of the relevant law. This also prejudicially affects the fundamental rights of the citizens at large, directly or indirectly.
“This is where the CJP comes in as a consultee in his capacity as a guardian and defender of the constitutional and legal rights of the people at large. The CJP can play a salutary role particularly when there is a serious difference of opinion between other consultees over a proposed appointment.
“The role of the CJP as a neutral arbiter in disagreements, differences or disputes over matters of national importance already stands recognised by the Constitution itself through Articles 152 and 159(4).”
Referring to two different notifications issued on Oct 8, 2010, and Feb 9, 2011, about the appointment of Justice Shah on the same post, the verdict said that adoption of such methodology would neither establish continuity in the term of office nor would it superimpose his second appointment upon his first appointment by portraying the first appointment a continuation of his first appointment.
“Therefore, Justice (retd) Deedar Shah’s two appointments were, for all intents and purposes as well as for all legal consequences, two distinct and separate appointments. If such fresh appointment after premature discontinuation of the earlier appointment is made permissible then before the expiry of the first term the appointment will be terminated on the basis of some cooked up pretext, ruse or subterfuge and a favourite incumbent will be appointed afresh for another term of office and that surely will destroy the very spirit and the very object of the law,” the verdict said.
Justice Khosa deplored that the office of prosecutor-general accountability had been lying vacant for about six months and asked the government to make a regular appointment to the office without further loss of time.