ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday observed that the findings of the joint investigation team (JIT) in Panama scandal were not binding on the court. The court observed that the admissibility of the documents produced by the JIT in its final report was debatable as to whether these can be authenticated in terms of Section 21 (g) and (h), which deals with International Cooperation Request for Mutual Legal Assistance, of the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, a member of the three-judge implementation bench, observed that the documents from the British Virgin Island (BVI), which were obtained through a firm specialised in gathering documents, were not certified, while another document pertaining to the FZE obtained through mutual legal assistance from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was certified. During the arguments by Naeem Bukhari, council for Imran Khan, while he was citing the conclusions and findings of the JIT based on available documents, Justice Khan observed that it was debatable whether the documents could be admissible without evidentiary hearing and without questioning the people who signed them. Bukhari responded that it was for the six-member JIT to answer the query. He, however, agreed to the bench’s observation that it was court’s discretion to accept the findings or not. Bukhari contended that record shows the salary was released to the prime minister from offshore in June and August 2013. Giving his arguments, he further contended that the inquiry panel gave answers to all the questions initially raised by the top court. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif filed objections over the JIT report, stating that the team was biased and functioned beyond its scope while violating mutual legal assistance and accountability laws and had no legal value in the eyes of the law. He also requested the court to make Volume X of the JIT report public. In his application, the PM contended that the JIT members humiliated and threatened the witnesses, adding the investigation panel exceeded its mandate and worked beyond its scope. The objections filed by PM Sharif through his counsel Advocate Khawaja Harris further contended that the JIT findings regarding matters which fall under the scope of April 20 verdict of the apex court were based on legally inadmissible documents, adding that JIT members exceeded their jurisdiction and authority in obtaining documents from abroad by hiring private firms. “The JIT has exceeded the mandate given to it by this honourable court in the order dated 20.04.2017 and thereby rendered a report which is a nullity in the eyes of the law.” “As a matter of fact, and to the knowledge of each and every JIT member, mutual legal assistance requests are to be addressed to a foreign state and not to private firms or entities, and such evidence and documents alone are inadmissible in evidence under Section 21 (g) of the NAO, 1999,” the objections stated. Neither any of the documents bear the attestation in accordance with law nor are any of these documents in original, it said, adding most of them do not even bear the signatures of any executant or scribe. “As such it is evident that none of these documents can be relied upon, nor can their contents be considered to form the basis of any adverse finding against any of the respondents,” the PM contended. PM Nawaz also objected over the representative of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s top spy agency, as JIT member. “The said nominee of ISI was not an officer of ISI at the time of his nomination, rather he was a ‘source employee’ under a contract which is not recognized as legal, and reportedly neither his association with ISI nor his pay is reflected in any official record,” it said. Published in Daily Times, July 18th, 2017.