Supreme Court seeks names of cabinet members removed from ECL

02:41 PM | 27 May, 2022
Supreme Court seeks names of cabinet members removed from ECL
Source: File photo

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court on Friday sought the details of the cabinet members whose names have been removed from the Exit Control List (ECL).

These directives came as a five-member larger bench of the SC resumed the hearing on a suo motu notice on the perceived apprehension of “persons in authority” undermining the criminal justice system.

The bench is headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, and comprises Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar.

The notice was taken on May 18 amidst allegations levelled by the PTI that soon after coming to power, the present coalition government allegedly started influencing different cases and transferring investigators or officers supervising cases, especially related to corruption allegations.

The court also sought a report on the method of amendments in the ECL rules and summoned Federal Investigation Agency’s Law Director Usman Gondal.

CJP Umar Ata Bandial remarked, “For now, the court is not nullifying the decision regarding the amendments in ECL rules.”

During the hearing, the top judge said that the apex court will take action against anti-state steps. He asked Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf to read Section 2 of the ECL rules, according to which terrorists, tax defaulters and loan defaulters cannot travel out of the country.

“At whose behest did the Cabinet amend the rules pertaining to people involved in corruption and defaulters. Did the federal Cabinet approve the amendment in rules?” the CJP asked.

Responding to the question, AGP Ausaf said that he would present the minutes of the Cabinet meeting for approval.

Justice Ahsan questioned how the change could be applied retroactively, while Justice Akhtar asked whether the Cabinet Division notification about the change in rules mentioned that they could be applied to names added in the past.

"Who benefitted from the rules?" asked Justice Naqvi.

Justice Akhtar also observed that the approval of the change in rules by a cabinet member who was facing cases would be a conflict of interest. He asked for details of which cabinet members had benefitted to be submitted to the court.

Justice Mazahar Naqvi was of the view that the Cabinet members benefited from the amendment they approved.

“How could the Cabinet members make amendments for their personal benefit,” the judge asked.

The AGP maintained that he would find out if the members who were in the no-travel list were part of the committee that approved the amendments or not.

Justice Muneeb Akhtar said that the court knows that the federal ministers have only allegations and nothing has been proved against them.

“But is there a code under which it can be ensured that the file of the case isn’t forwarded to the same minister who is the accused in it,” he asked.

The court adjourned the hearing till an indefinite period.

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