President Alvi sends another bill to Parliament asking for changes to the NAB statute.
The National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2023 was returned to Parliament on Sunday by President Dr. Arif Alvi, who claimed that earlier revisions to the accountability laws were pending before the Supreme Court (SC).
The opposition-designated “part two of NRO-2” bill earlier this month had breezed through the Senate without being assigned to the relevant standing committee.
The National Assembly had already approved the measure, which Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar introduced in the Senate under opposition from PTI senators.
The legislation, which was put forth by the government in March, not only gives the NAB chairman the authority to refer graft cases involving corruption of less than Rs500 million to the appropriate agency, authority, or department, but it also allows him or her to close open inquiries and investigations where they believe there is no merit to the case.
The President’s Office stated today in a tweet that “the president sent back the bill to Parliament under Article 75 (president’s assent to bills) of the Constitution.”
President Alvi gave the Supreme Court an opportunity to consider earlier revisions to the NAB statute as justification for returning the bill.
“This aspect has not been addressed in the bill and the prime minister’s advice,” he claimed.
The president argued that any additional changes to the nation’s accountability rules “should be reviewed again without reviewing the effects of a pending matter.”
provisions 4 and 6 of the NAB Ordinance were among the provisions that the National Accountability (Amendment) Bill, 2023 intended to modify the most.
Section 4 of the NAB law was amended to read as follows: “If the chairman is satisfied that there is no case made out against an accused and the investigation may be completed, he shall send the matter to the Court for approval and for the accused’s release, if in jail.
“Where the chairman is of the opinion that prima facie case is made out against an accused under any other law for the time being in force, he shall refer the matter to the relevant agency, authority or department, as the case may be,” it adds.
A clause added to Section 6 of the NAB Ordinance states that the deputy chairman shall serve in the chairman’s absence or when the chairman is unable to carry out the duties of his office due to any action, and that in the event that the deputy chairman is not available, the federal government shall appoint an acting chairman from among the senior NAB officers.
According to the bill, “some legal complications have arisen for the transfer of those cases from the accountability courts to other courts, tribunals, and forums which do not fall within the domain or jurisdiction of the NAB Ordinance” as a result of the changes made to the NAB statute last year.
The statement of objects and reasons for the bill states that “on the initiative of the Prosecutor General Accountability and after having the input of relevant stakeholders, certain further amendments in the NAB Ordinance are required to be made urgently to provide legal cover to the accountability courts for transfer of aforesaid cases.”
Previous changes to the NAB law
The National Accountability (Second Amendment) Act 2022 was passed by the coalition government in office since April.
It indicates that after the chairman’s term ends, the deputy chairman of the NAB, who will be chosen by the federal government, would assume leadership of the organisation.
The bill also changed the NAB chairman’s four-year tenure and the prosecutor general’s term from the bureau to three years. NAB won’t be allowed to take action on federal, provincial, or local tax issues after the law is approved. Additionally, the regulatory organisations operating in the nation have been excluded from NAB’s purview.
In accordance with the applicable laws, “all pending inquiries, investigations, trials, or proceedings under this ordinance, relating to persons or transactions… shall stand transferred to the concerned authorities, departments, and courts,” the law states.
Additionally, it has established a three-year term for the accountability court judges. Additionally, it will obligate the courts to render a decision in a case within a year. The NAB is required by the proposed law to make sure that there is evidence against an accused person available before the accused person is arrested.
The statute “shall be deemed to have taken effect on and from the commencement of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999,” states one of the significant modifications.
The NAB legislation were then contested by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, who claimed that they would “virtually eliminate any white-collar crime committed by a public office holder.” The Supreme Court is still hearing the case.