LAHORE - The Lahore High Court Friday turned down all petitions challenging the National Accountability Ordinance 1999.

A full bench led by Justice Shahid Waheed and comprising Justice Atir Mahmood and Justice Shahid Jamil Khan passed the order after hearing lengthy arguments of both sides—the petitioners, the NAB and the federal government.

The bench arose after hearing the arguments, assembled few minutes later and announced the judgment.

Lawyers Foundation for Justice and Advocate Saad Saleem had moved the petitions challenging the legitimacy of the NAB Ordinance, trial and cases of the people under it including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Safdar and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar.

A NAB additional prosecutor general defended the law while objecting to the maintainability of the petitions and a federal law officer also said that the NAB ordinance was protected by the Constitution.

In his arguments,  NAB Additional Prosecutor General Jahanzeb Bharwana said that  Legal Framework Order 2002 gave the status of “Act” to the NAB Ordinance under Article 270 –AA of the Constitution. And that the same ordinance was duly approved as an Act of Parliament through 17th Amendment Act 2003, he said.

He also said certain president’s orders mentioned in Article 270-AA  were declared as having been made without lawful authority and of no legal effect in the light of 18th amendment while all laws made between Oct 12, 1999 and Oct 31, 2003 are still in force as they were allowed to continue to be in force until altered, repealed or amended by the authority concerned.

Bharwana contended that the limitation of 120 days was not applicable to the laws made under the PCO No. 1 of 1999 and the NAB law is protected under the Constitution. Deputy Attorney General Imran Aziz argued that the laws were effective in the 18th amendment under Article 270 –AA of the Constitution.

The petitioners’ counsel Advocate A. K Dogar said that the NAB law was promulgated by military dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf under Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) No 1 of 1999 as well as Order No 9 of 1999.

They said order No.9 was promulgated only to amend PCO No.1 of 1999 with the insertion of section 5A (1) in it to the effect that limitation of 120 days prescribed under Article 89 of the Constitution to any ordinance by the president will not be applicable to the laws made under PCO No.1 of 1999. The lawyer contended that as the PCO No.1 was declared without lawful authority and of no legal effect, the amendments in it made underorder No.9 of 1999 would also lapse and therefore, the limitation period of 120 days prescribed under Article 89 would be applicable to the NAB ordinance.

The lawyer said certain laws which were still enforced, shall continue to remain enforced unless amended by the competent legislation under sub-article 2 of Article 270-AA of the Constitution. He prayed to the court to the NAB ordinance ceased to be the law and had become non-existent and a dead letter. He also prayed to the court to set aside all those proceedings being carried out by the NAB courts under the dead law of NAB ordinance.

He said order No.9 was promulgated only to amend PCO No.1 of 1999 with the insertion of section 5A (1) in it to the effect that limitation of 120 days prescribed under Article 89 of the Constitution to any ordinance by the president will not be applicable to the laws made under PCO No.1 of 1999. The lawyer contended that as the PCO No.1 was declared without lawful authority and of no legal effect, the amendments in it made underorder No.9 of 1999 would also lapse and therefore, the limitation period of 120 days prescribed under Article 89 would be applicable to the NAB ordinance.

Opposing the stance of the federal government, Dogar said the impugned ordinance was a creation under Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) promulgated by Pervez Musharraf. The  PCO was  amended three times but the 18th amendment declared it null and void , he argued. He further argued that the 18th Amendment Act 2010 had declared all acts and laws made by dictator as without lawful authority. He said the Supreme Court also in its 2009 judgment declared the PCO of Musharraf void ab initio meaning thereby the NAO stood repealed since 2000.

Another lawyer Advocate Saad Saleem said the PCO was void ab initio from the very first day so it could not provide life to the NAB Ordinance beyond its normal tenure of 120 days. He said NAB ordinance died after its normal life and it was never revived.  After March 2000, it was nothing but a dead law, said Advocate Saleem which could not even be revived, he further argued. He said the federal government could not intervene in the judicial autonomy of the provinces while anti-corruption laws had already been there in the provinces, so dichotomy of such laws could not be allowed at this stage. He said this is beyond the scheme of Article 142 of the Constitution. He asked the court to set aside the NAB ordinance.