ISLAMABAD - The National Accountability Bureau on Wednesday filed an appeal in the Supreme Court to set aside Lahore High Court judgment in the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case.

The NAB prayed before the apex court to hear the appeal to examine the legality, propriety and vires of the LHC judgment dated March 11, 2014.

It made management of the paper mills, Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif, Abbas Sharif, Hussain Nawaz, Hamza Shehbaz, Shahmim Akhtar, Sabiha Abbas and Maryam Nawaz respondents, while federation through Law secretary and judge of Accountability Court No IV, Rawalpindi were made pro forma respondents.

The NAB in year 2000 filed a reference against the above said respondents before Accountability Court, Attock, stating that they remained in possession of huge amount of ill-gotten wealth [around Rs1,243 million] which was unexplained and disproportionate to their known sources of income.

The respondents on October 17, 2011 filed a writ petition before the LHC Rawalpindi bench for quashing the reference and the court quashed it.

However, the matter was re-investigated but a division bench of the LHC gave a split decision on whether the NAB was competent to re-initiate the proceedings against the respondents.

The matter was therefore sent to a referee judge who observed that one member of the LHC division bench had rightly quashed the reference and set aside the observation of the other member of the bench to reinvestigate the matter.

The NAB then did not file appeal against the referee judge verdict.

However, in view of the five-judge bench final order in Panama Papers case, the NAB has now filed the appeal against the LHC judgment.

In the appeal, the accountability body noted that the JIT [formed by the SC in Panama case] in its report had recommended that the “bureau may be ordered to file an appeal before the Supreme Court assailing the order of the LHC.”

The Supreme Court in para 12 of its final [July 28, 2017] order in Panama case stated: “The arguments that the JIT overstepped its authority by reopening the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case, when Reference No 5 was quashed by the LHC does not appear to be correct as the JIT has simply made recommendations in this behalf, which can better be dealt with this court, if and when an appeal, before the apex court, as has been undertaken by special prosecutor NAB, is filed and a view to the contrary is taken by this court.”

The NAB appeal said that the LHC judgment was not passed in consonance with the dictums laid down by ‘this [apex] court’.

The referee judge is not competent to set aside the finding of the judge of high court regarding reinvestigation as has been done in this case, it maintained.

The investigation, it added, is a continued process to reach at the just conclusion and no embargo can be placed on fresh investigation or further investigation - especially when new material has emerged.

The NAB said that in view of the JIT report it could not be debarred or restrained from proceeding further with the investigation; hence, it would be appropriate to set aside the LHC judgment to the extent of reinvestigation in order to fortify and corroborate the material collected by the JIT.

The impugned judgment is void ab-initio and illegal and as such no limitation runs against such void order, the Bureau said.