ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan Thursday observed that till the completion of investigation and filing of references in the Accountability Courts, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) should not arrest people.

A three-member special bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed made this observation while hearing a suo motu notice about the delay in decision-making process in cases before the Accountability Courts. The NAB was directed to frame rules under Section 34 of the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO), 1999 by the next date of hearing.

Justice Yahya Afridi said that that before the completion of the investigation, people should not be arrested. He added that when the NAB arrests people during an investigation then it becomes a burden on the courts. He further said that if the people do not cooperate during the investigation then the NAB can take action.

The court noted that the NAB prosecution and investigation were incompetent and flawed.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed said that hardly any prosecutor provided assistance to the courts as they were not aware of the factual and legal matter of the case and were dependent on the courts for favourable decisions.

The Chief Justice said that under the NAB Ordinance, the cases needed to be decided within 30 days, but were decided in 30 years. He said that instead of quality, the NAB emphasized on quantity, therefore, 50, 50 witnesses were produced in the cases.

Prosecutor General Justice (retd) Asghar Haider agreed with the Chief Justice’s observation and said that the NAB was created in 1999, adding they engaged lawyers, who were available in the market, as prosecutors.  He admitted that the investigation was flawed.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed that the base was investigation, if that was faulty then it becomes a problem for the prosecution, therefore, the conviction rate in the NAB cases was abysmal.

The Prosecutor General told that they held seminars for investigators, where British and American police officers gave them training. He said that unless the NAB had competent investigators and prosecutors it could not deliver.

The Chief Justice said that in the presence of the material evidence why the bureau’s investigators relied upon oral evidence. He said that when there would be dishonesty in investigation then prosecutors would not be able to defend the cases in the courts.

The NAB prosecutors and other officers do not have the capacity, the CJP remarked.

The bench said that the NAB should decide the case within 30 days as per the scheme of the legislators. It noted that if chairman NAB thinks that the scheme is not followed then that should be done immediately.

The court expected another response from the NAB chairman about the matter on the next date of hearing.

The Secretary Law and Justice informed that the consultation was being held and the decision for setting up 120 courts would be made within one month, adding after that it would be placed before the federal cabinet.

He added that after the cabinet approval, process for appointment of judges and infrastructure of Accountability Courts would be decided.

On January 8, Justice Mushir Alam had requested the Chief Justice to constitute a special bench and initiate suo motu proceedings over the delay in prosecuting the accused before the accountability courts.

Later, the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing for four weeks.