A functional methodology consisting of several clearly-demarcated spheres and stages has been prescribed to conduct the operations of the organization. The functional methodology has been formalized after due consideration of legal procedures, various aspects of corruption and corrupt practices and by specifying clear guidelines for fair, just and equitable disposal of cases both in terms of procedural and legal sustainability.
2.1.1Receipt of Complaints
According to Section 21(2) of the Act, a reference can be initiated by the Bureau on:-
- Receipt of a reference/ complaint from the appropriate government department or agency.
- Receipt of a complaint from members of the public.
The complaints can be submitted through post or presented directly to the Chairman. All Complaints are initially processed at the Head office of the Bureau then these are assigned to complaints section where each complaint is given a complaint number systematically and serially and entered into the database and are also acknowledged.
In order to establish the nature of allegations and possibility of taking cognizance, all complaints received, are initially examined by the Complaints Branch under the provisions of the Act and other relevant law and it is decided whether the complaint is valid or not?
After initial verification if it is found that the complaint is valid and processable, the regular inquiry is initiated. Complainants and the accused are called to explain their version. Oral and documentary evidence is also obtained from both sides. This process enables the inquiry officer/ team to establish whether there is enough incriminating material to prosecute the accused under the Act or not? Inquiry is a facts finding phase of operational chain which decides the fate of the case. During this stage the accused is provided an opportunity to present his defence. If it is concluded by the inquiry officer/team that the complaint is equipped with sufficient material to prosecute the accused, he submits his recommendation to the Director inquiry. In case of agreement with the findings of inquiry officer, Director Complaints submits his recommendations for conversion of complaint into regular investigation for approval of Chairman.
After a detailed scrutiny of evidence and input of the Technical and legal experts, investigation is authorized by the Chairman or the officer duly authorized on his behalf. Thereafter, the complaint is assigned to an Investigation Team which undertakes the process of regular investigation under law. The Investigation team collects the evidence and prepares investigation report abiding by the legal and investigative procedures and adherence to the provisions of law. The investigation process entails examination of documentary and oral evidence including interrogation/ interview of the accused, recording of statements and collection of evidentiary material. An investigation is given a specific timeline of 9 months to be completed.
2.1.5 Prioritization of Cases
Pursuing every complaint, though extremely desirable, is impractical. It adversely affects the quality output therefore, the complaints received are prioritized keeping in view the handling capacity of the Bureau and nature or sensitiveness of the case. A priority matrix has, been formulated for cognizance of cases.
2.1.6.Arrest of Accused
The Chairman AJK Ehtesab Bureau may order the arrest of the accused at any stage of investigation under section 27(1) of the Act. While conducting an arrest, the accused is duly appraised of the charges levelled against him and he/she is produced before the Ehtesab Court within twenty-four hours for physical remand for maximum of thirty days. On expiry of physical remand, the accused is transferred to judicial custody. In case the arrested accused is a government servant, the concerned department/ institution is informed of the arrest and the grounds thereof forthwith.
2.1.7.Withdrawal from Prosecution
Where the Chairman is of the opinion that the ends of the Justice so require, he may direct the Chief Prosecutor to withdraw from prosecution of any person under section 37 of the Act, at any stage and upon such withdrawal the accused shall be released if not required in any other case under the Act.
2.1.8.Filing of reference
WThe Final Investigation Report is examined by the Prosecution Wing in all respects to ensure that the case is fit for prosecution and all legal formalities have been completed. After consent of prosecution section, the investigation wing prepares a draft reference which is submitted to the Chairman for signatures. In case the Chairman deems necessary, he may forward the reference along with investigation report to the legal section for further consultation. The reference is signed by the Chairman after through scrutiny and satisfaction to be filed in the Court of Law through prosecution branch.
After filing of reference before the competent court of law, process is started for proper adjudication of the reference. The prosecution stage can culminate in any of the following ways:-
- Plea Bargain by the accused.
- Conviction of the accused.
- Acquittal of the accused.
If the interlocutory order(s) is/ are not challenged or no miscellaneous application (i.e, an application under section 265K of the CrPC) is filed, Ehtesab Courts shall adjudicate the case in its normal course. The final judgment passed by the Ehtesab Court is appealable before the High Court under Section 4 of the Act. Order passed by High Court can be assailed before the Supreme Court through petition for leave to appeal. A review petition before the Supreme Court is also allowed thereafter.
2.3.Exit Control List
Where the Bureau apprehends that an accused can interfere with the course of an investigation and evade the process of investigation or prosecution by leaving the country, the accused can be placed on Exit Control List through the Ministry of Interior at any stage, in accordance with the provisions of Section 2 of the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance, 1981.
2.4.Voluntary Return (Plea Bargain)
The accused has an option to avail the facility of Voluntary Return (Plea Bargain) under section 28 of the Act, at any stage before or after the commencement of trial if he returns the assets or gains acquired through corruption or corrupt practices, subject to the following procedure:-
- If the trial has not commenced, the Chairman Ehtesab Bureau may release the accused; and
- If the Court has taken cognizance of the offence or the trial has commenced, the chairman may, with the approval of Court, release the accused.
2.5. Freezing of Assets
Tracing the assets of accused is the most difficult aspect in white collar crimes cases. It is a common practice that ill-gotten wealth is often transferred by accused persons restricting the ability of anti-corruption agencies to recover such assets. The law accordingly empowers the Bureau to seek information about the assets of an accused from any source, including the financial institutions. Under Section 13 of the Act, the Chairman Ehtesab Bureau or an officer duly authorized by him and the Ehtesab Courts are empowered to order freezing of the assets and bank accounts of accused at any stage of the case whether they are in his own possession or in the possession of any relative, associate or any person on behalf of the accused through a benami transaction.
2.6. Delegation of Powers
In order to ensure speedy process of operation and decision making, the Chairman, AJK Ehtesab Bureau may delegate sufficient operational as well as administrative powers to any officer of Bureau under the provisions of Section 5(2) of the Act.