Islamabad: The release of former Chief Minister of Punjab and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly, Shahbaz Sharif, on bail from custody of Pakistan’s anti-graft agency National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in money-laundering reference was delayed. The reason was one of the two judges of the Lahore High Court (LHC) bench differed with his fellow judge and refused to sign the short order.
The matter is now sent to the Chief Justice of the LHC for the nomination of a referee judge.
According to details, Justice Sardar Mohammad Sarfraz Dogar, who also headed the bench, had allowed the petition on April 13 after reserving the order briefly.
However, Justice Asjad Javed Ghural dissented with his senior colleague’s view rather accused him of issuing the short order ‘unilaterally’.
In his dissenting note released on April 17, Justice Asjad Javed Ghural said “It is shocking for me to observe here that it has been mentioned in the beginning paragraph of the said order that unanimous order qua grant of bail to the petitioner was announced, which is against the ground reality.”
The judge further registered his grievance in the following words: “In fact after hearing the parties, when my learned brother sought my consent qua allowing the petition, I refused in the court whereupon the announcement was deferred for consultation in the chamber where I again straightaway refused but surprisingly, my learned brother unilaterally announced his decision through his naib qasid granting bail to the petitioner.”
Unfortunate and rare example
I brought the situation to the notice of the LHC chief justice a few minutes later, but “my learned brother sent me the short order for signature for which he had no occasion at all”.
“This is a very unfortunate and rare example in judicial history, which could not be expected from a senior member heading the division bench,” said the dissenting judge.
Justice Ghural’s note of dissention has come not only as a disappointment for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) workers but it has also surprised the legal experts and jurists.
This is unprecedented in the history of the Lahore High Court as never before, such a striking difference by one judge with the other has been recorded in the written form, said Irfan Qadir, former Attorney General and Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
The order was uploaded even on the LHC website and in the light of the Supreme Court’s past observations that NAB had become a tool for political engineering and keeping in view the petitioner’s age and health the bail should have been granted, he said.
The benefit of doubt always goes to the petitioner, said Irfan Qadir and demanded a thorough inquiry into the matter to see whether it was the result of some misunderstanding between the two judges.