ISLAMABAD -  While hearing a case related to ‘illegal’ appointments in the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), the Supreme Court on Monday directed the anti-graft body and the Establishment Division (ED) to sort out the issue before the court intervenes, which may have an off-putting effect on the benefits being availed by the employees.

At the same time, the apex court observed that the president and the prime minister will have to perform their functions in accordance with the constitution and the law.

“The prime minister and the president can’t act in violation of rules. The prime minister does not have unlimited powers,” said Justice Amir Hani Muslim, who was heading a three-member bench, which took up the suo moto case regarding illegal appointment in the NAB.

The court directed NAB Chairman Qamar Zaman Chaudhry and ED Secretary Tahir Shahbaz to sit down and decide about the NAB employees, who were inducted in breach of bureau’s rules, by Wednesday. The apex court said that they would pass an order. “If the court decides the matter, then the employees would be deprived of benefits like pension, etc.

The court was informed that Aliya Rashid had been inducted in NAB as she had won medals in tennis. Alia had been inducted in NAB by former prime minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali. Justice Qazi Faez Isa observed that action could be taken against the (former) PM under section 9 of the NAO for undue concession and dispensation.

Advocate Hafizur-Rehman, who represented Aliya, said that her client had won national and international medals and the then PM relaxing the rules inducted her in the NAB. Justice Hani questioned whether the prime minister is above the law. He said under 1973 Constitution the PM’s power was a trust and not a prerogative. “The competent authority could not relax rules for eligibility.”

The court said that those who have inherent disqualification should opt for the compulsory retirement; otherwise, they would pass the order. Khawaja Haris, representing the NAB, said that 689 cases of NAB employees had been scrutinised and inconstancies found in 133 cases, and of them, 35 have retired, while illegalities were found in 48 cases during the initial appointment.

Haris said that the promotion of Khalid Mehmood, Ansar Yaqoob, Sharif Chandio and Afshan Basharat was in accordance with the law. However, the court pointed out illegalities in their promotion as well.

The NAB counsel said that Assistant Director Khalid Mehmood was given promotion in view of the services tribunal judgement. He was from Accounts and Work Department of the Punjab province. Justice Hani told the counsel to strike down Khalid’s antedating promotion.

The NAB counsel said that Sharif Chandio was inducted from the Sindh province while Afshan Basharat was inducted as she got a medal in the junior championship in tennis.

“If she had won the medal then why she was not appointed DG in the NAB,” Justice Hani questioned. The judge said that “these are commendable issues and the apex court could not run the NAB”.

The NAB counsel said that many people in the bureau were inducted from the army. Justice Hani said that they would not comment on it. The NAB counsel asked the court to either strike down the illegal appointments or interpret the law, as “the NAB chairman can’t go beyond”.

About Major (retd) Shehzad Saleem, Director NAB KP, the court noted that he was given promotion two steps up. Malik Qayyum, the counsel of Major Shehzad, said that he was inducted in NAB with the consent of the then army chief (Gen Pervez Musharraf). He said that his client was qualified for the post in the NAB as he had done MSc in computer studies.

Advocate Ahmed Awais, while appearing on behalf of DG Multan Brig (retd) Farooq Nasir Awan, said that his client had BSc engineering degree at the time of appointment. He said that in the revised list prepared by the ED, his name was cleared but the NAB list of 48 contains it.

The court noted that those inducted in NAB on the basis of sports should be appointed in the Sports Boards as the NAB functions were related to investigation and inquiry. “We want to encourage sports in the country but sportsmen/sportswomen could not become DG or director in the NAB,” the bench observed. The hearing is adjourned until Tuesday.