Lahore: Banking court judge refuses to hear NICL scam case
LAHORE: The judge of a special court for banking offences refused on Tuesday to further proceed with a case relating to financial corruption in the National Insurance Company Limited when the counsel for accused Moonis Elahi, an MPA and son of PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, challenged the court’s jurisdiction to record the statement of co-accused Muhammad Maalick under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
Judge Malik Abdul Rasheed wanted to hear the investigating officer in the case before deciding on an application for acquittal of Moonis Elahi, but his counsel Muhammad Amjad Pervez and Rai Bashir insisted that the application should be decided the same day.
Arguments by the counsel and the judge’s replies turned into a heated debate. The hearing was proceeding smoothly with arguments by Advocate Amjad Pervez in support of the acquittal application of his client. But when the judge wanted to record the statement of Muhammad Maalick, the manager of a company owned by Moonis Elahi, under section 342 of CrPC, Advocate Rai Bashir raised an objection and argued that the court had no jurisdiction to record the statement at this stage of the case. He also read out the section 342.
But the judge insisted that under the section the court could record the statement of any accused at any stage of the case. Earlier, Muhammad Maalick said he was ready to answer any question asked by the judge, but refused to record his statement after the counsel had raised the objection.
The counsel requested the judge to announce his decision on the acquittal plea of Moonis on the basis of record available with the court and arguments advanced by them. The judge observed that the court could not take a decision without hearing FIA investigating officer Sarwar.
When the counsel stuck to their point the judge refused to further proceed with the case and referred it to the Lahore High Court chief justice for fixing the matter before another court.
The judge observed: “The counsel are trying to influence the court and, therefore, I cannot hear the case.” Moonis Elahi was taken back to a sub-jail in an armoured personnel carrier.
PML-Q workers and supporters, including women, who had gathered outside the court chanted slogans against judiciary. They demanded release of Moonis.
Earlier, Advocate Amjad Pervez informed the court that FIA Deputy Director Basharat Shahzad, investigating officer of the first FIR in the case, had written a letter to then FIA director of Punjab Zafar Qureshi in which he said there was no evidence against Moonis Elahi.
The counsel presented the letter in the court and said that Mr Shahzad had stated that Mohsin Habib Warraich, the main accused in the NICL scam, was still at large and till his arrest there could be no progress in the case.
The FIA was satisfied with written replies submitted by Moonis Elahi in response to a questionnaire sent by the agency, the counsel quoted the letter as saying.
Advocate Amjad said that on the basis of supplementary statements of the arrested accused the agency later attributed a role to his client (Moonis) that bank accounts used for transferring the embezzled amount of the NICL had been opened and were being operated on the direction of Moonis.
The counsel argued that the investigating officer himself became a complainant against his client when there was no private complainant, adding that this showed a mala fide intention on the part of the FIA.
The judge said the court had to first decide whether the bank accounts were genuine or bogus.
The counsel said that even if the bank accounts were proved to be bogus, no case could be made out against his client.
He said all private prosecution witnesses alleged that the FIA had fabricated their statements. “Under such circumstances, the court is left with no option but to acquit Moonis Elahi of the charges,” he argued.