Petition seeks sentencing guidelines for NAB

Tribune

ISLAMABAD: A constitutional petition has been filed in the Supreme Court, seeking directives for the federal government and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to formulate and prescribe appropriate sentencing guidelines for white-collar crimes.

The petitioner, Aman Ullah Farooq, has also requested the SC to direct NAB to act only in mega corruption case as, according to him, the bureau has also been taking cognisance of lesser cases, departing both from its statutory mandate and its own guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs).

In November 2006, the petitioner was working as manager operations of a bank in Sialkot, where an inquiry was initiated against him on a complaint by the bank with respect to alleged misappropriation of Rs9 million.

The matter was referred to an accountability court through a reference whereby, upon conclusion of the trial proceedings, he was convicted on October 10, 2011.

Farooq was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 14 years along with a fine of Rs9 million, with two-year additional jail in case of failure to pay the penalty.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) dismissed his petition but the Supreme Court granted him leave to appeal and the matter is still pending. The

petitioner on Saturday filed a constitution petition through Sherjeel Adnan Sheikh advocate under Article 184(3), nominating the federal government as respondent.

The petitioner also asked the court to issue directives to the government and NAB for the due provision of a separate hearing for the purpose of sentencing of an accused found guilty.

The petitioner submitted that a uniform and standard sentencing policy is required across the board, in all areas of criminal law and in particular with respect to white-collar crimes which are under focus at the moment.

“This field, with its multiple laws laying down what are similar or identical offences; multiple law enforcement agencies taking cognisance thereof; and trial procedures and sentencing trends which are ‘hideously variable’, is marked by glaring violations of the fundamental rights of accused persons.”

The petition said the rule of law and the hard-earned and much cherished fundamental rights of the people of Pakistan to due process, a fair trial, life and liberty, and to the equal protection of the law should not be allowed to be sacrificed at the altar of eradication of corruption.

“Most pressing issue having far-reaching effects on the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan remains unanswered. Whether NAB will or will not take cognisance of a case is entirely arbitrary, and for accused persons is akin to being in a lottery; given that NAB Ordinance contrasts starkly from other laws in respect of the physical remand of an accused and the severity of sentencing which eventually emerges from trials under the NAB Ordinance.

“Such a state of affairs is ex-facie discriminatory, along with being abhorrent to the rule of law and the rights of accused persons to be treated in accordance with law,” it says.

The petitioner also contends that under various international jurisdictions, sentencing is recognised as a separate and distinct stage in trial proceedings, following upon a guilty verdict against an accused person.

“Such jurisdictions require that once a person is found guilty of commission of an offence, he is given the opportunity to make representations regarding mitigating factors, and is confronted with other relevant factors for the due determination of the kind, quantum and execution of the corresponding punishment.

“This recognition of the importance of sentencing as a distinct and integral part of the trial process – as important as the adjudication of guilt – has contributed to the gradual build-up of sentencing jurisprudence, without which a humane and robust criminal justice system is not possible,” he adds.

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