Top court directs govt to bring ECL rules changes within 'legal ambit' in a week

Top court directs govt to bring ECL rules changes within 'legal ambit' in a week

Islamabad (Web Desk): The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday directed the federal government to bring the recent changes in the rules of the Exit Control List (ECL) within the "ambit of the law" within a week, cautioning that it would issue an order if its directive was not followed.

As per the details, a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, had taken suo motu notice on apprehensions that criminal justice might be undermined by people in authority.

In a written order issued earlier this week, the SC had observed that it appeared the amendments in the Exit From Pakistan (Control) Rules of 2010 had been enforced with retrospective effect.

As the hearing started, the CJP CJ Umar Ata Bandial questioned the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) regarding the process for removing names from the ECL at the start of the hearing.

The AGP told the court that names in ECL list have been added on the order of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman.

Upon this, the CJP said that it means NAB must have added names after thinking carefully.

Justice Bandial said that every case in NAB is on corruption case but the bureau does not add everyone in the ECL list.

He added that as per NAB, names of people who were involved in the corruption of billions of rupees have been excluded from the list.

While Justice Mazahar Naqvi said that it would have been better that the names of people could have been excluded from the ECL list after reviewing properly. The government says going out of the country is the basic right of anyone but if that is the case then what is the purpose of ECL, he questioned.

The AGP said he thinks that the ECL should not even exist. On which the CJ said that we will not decide on a personal opinion.

"To make the arrangements within a week as we don’t want to intervene in the authority of any executive," the CJP said.

On a question about ECL amendments by SC judge Muneeb Akhtar, the AGP said that the government amended the ECL rules after fulfilling all legal aspects. He said that the cabinet has written that the amendments will be applied retroactively.

Ashtar Ausaf added that amendment of ECL Rules is at the discretion of the federal government.

The AGP told the court that cabinet members  names were removed from the ECL so the government could function smoothly.

He said that there is no law that states discussion with NAB is necessary for removing the names.

The court ordered NAB and FIA to submit the record of high profile cases and to submit the soft copies of every record. While Prosecutor General requested for some time for the submission of the record and said that the orders of SC can be implemented after the appointment of NAB chairman.

Meanwhile, the apex court advised the government to carefully consider the appointment of the NAB chairman.

In his remarks, the CJP said that one should not be influenced by the opinion of anyone outside the system over the appointment of the NAB chairman.

The CJP advised the AGP that the NAB chairman should be a competent and trustworthy person, and therefore, his appointment should be made with careful consideration.

Later the court adjourned the hearing of the suo moto till June 14.