The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has noted that the National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) decision to arrest PML-N senior leader and former planning minister Ahsan Iqbal during its inquiry into a sports complex case was abuse of power.
The country’s top accountability watchdog arrested Iqbal in December last year over alleged irregularities in a sports complex constructed in his hometown of Narowal.
A division bench of the IHC, headed by Chief Justice Athar Minallah and comprising Justice Lubna Saleem Pervez, on February 25 granted bail to the PML-N leader. The court has now issued its detailed verdict.
The verdict said the NAB additional prosecutor general failed to persuade the court that the incarceration of the PML-N leader was justified on the touch stones of law.
“It appears from the record that the petitioner was voluntarily cooperating with the investigation officer. The case was at the stage of ‘inquiry’ and had not been converted to the next stage – investigation. The petitioner at the present stage of proceedings is considered innocent,” it said.
The verdict said Ahsan Iqbal is an elected representative – is not disqualified as a member of the National Assembly – and his unnecessary incarceration particularly when he is cooperating in the inquiry is likely to expose the constituents to hardship as well.
“The bureau has not been able to persuade us that further incarceration of the petitioner would serve any useful purpose or that it is necessary for completion of the proceedings pending under the [National Accountability] Ordinance (NAO) 1999.”
It said there is nothing on record to “establish mens rea” on part of the petitioner nor has it been alleged by the bureau. “The bureau has not alleged that the petitioner had gained any financial benefit,” the 10-page verdict said.
The court noted that mere allegation of misuse of authority would not justify depriving an accused of liberty because an irregularity or a wrong decision sans criminal intent, mens rea and illegal gains and benefits does not attract the offenses under the NAO, 1999.