LAHORE - Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif is not likely to appear before the National Accountability Court on Monday (tomorrow), and lawyers say he might be issued a notice for next hearing.
However, if the former prime minister decides not to appear in the court on any date, he may be declared an absconder and may be indicted under the relevant law, the country’s senior legal experts say.
Nawaz Sharif is currently in London and is scheduled to return on January 4, next year, according to his PIA ticket.
His daughter Maryam Safdar and son-law Capt (r) Safdar have to reach Islamabad from London today (Sunday) while his sons Hussain and Hassan are in London where his wife Begum Kulsoom Nawaz is being treated for throat cancer.
On the last hearing, the NAB court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Maryam Nawaz, Hussain Nawaz, Hassan Nawaz and Capt (r) Safdar, directing them to appear in person, but they failed to turn up. The former prime minister, however, appeared before the accountability court on October 2.
The country’s top court on July 28 disqualified former PM Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case and ordered the NAB to file corruption references against him and his family members.
The lawyers say an accused may leave the country only after obtaining prior permission from the court.
Talking to The Nation, former NAB deputy prosecutor general Asad Manzoor Butt says Nawaz Sharif’s trial cannot be held in his absence in the light of the relevant law. “The court may attach his property and frame other charges under the NAB law,” Butt says.
Quoting Nusrat Bhutto’s case, Asad Manzoor Butt says she was sentenced to three-year imprisonment for remaining absent from the court proceedings under Section 31-A of the NAB Ordinance, 1999.” However, the court suspended that sentence when a medical certificate showing she was suffering from a serious disease in UAE at that time was presented, he said. In a criminal case, it is a settled principle that an accused has to file an appeal before the court personally. Even a close relative is not allowed to move an appeal on his behalf.
“Trial in absentia may not be held,” he said, answering a question if the trial of Nawaz Sharif would continue in his absence. If an accused is unaware of his trial and appears in the court after coming to know about it, his case may be different,” he stated. “Attendance of an accused during a trial is essential under Section 353 of CrPC,” he contends.
AK Dogar says, “There is no instance that a man’s trial concluded during his absence from the country. No trial can be held in the absence of an accused. He will only be tried when he appears or is brought back to the country by the state authorities.”
Former LHCBA Secretary Baleegh-uz-Zaman Chaudhry says, “Proceedings cannot be held in the absence of Nawaz Sharif and it is up to the court to start proceedings to declare him an absconder under the relevant laws.” The proceedings would be held under sections 87 and 88 of CrPC,” he adds.
Advocate Azhar Siddique says if Nawaz Sharif remains absent from the court proceedings, he may face another charge under the NAB laws. “Nawaz Sharif may face three-year imprisonment under the NAB law,” he points oput.