ISLAMABAD: Asking whether US Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were granted immunity, the chief justice of Pakistan on Wednesday observed that if the court had not granted immunity to the prime minister, it could also withhold it from the president.
The Supreme Court continued hearing various identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act 2012. A five-member bench of the apex court, comprising Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, heard the petitions against the law.
The court sought the parliamentary record of the debate during the passage of the contempt bill. Justice Jawwad observed that different laws for the poor and the rich would lead the nation to disaster.
Meanwhile, the chief justice said that it said something about the foresight of the politicians that the issue of contempt was not brought up during the passage of the 18th Amendment and in turn the contempt of court law was given protection. He said that the Constitution did not allow anyone to ridicule the court on the basis of immunity, adding that the violation of any court order was tantamount to committing contempt.
In his remarks, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani said that the case was being heard not because it involved influential personalities but because it involved the system. He said the judiciary respected parliament but the issue was not about parliament but about the welfare of the system as a whole.
During the court proceedings, the lawyers representing the petitioners in the case continued their arguments against the contempt law. Abdul Rehman Siddiqui argued that parliament could not legislate against fundamental rights. In the new law, he said, the executive was given the authority over the judiciary despite the fact that the judiciary’s role could not be diminished in any case. The new law was introduced to save people like Babar Awan, Sharjeel Memon and Malik Riaz, whose contempt of court cases were pending in the court, he added.
AK Dogar argued that according to the Constitution, the new contempt law was a dead law. Counsel Abdul Rehman Siddiqui argued that the new contempt law was legislated to curtail the powers of the judiciary, was in violation of the Constitution, contradicted Islamic teachings and was passed with ill intentions.
The counsel asked the court to declare the law as void and said that legislation on the contempt law was the prerogative of the Supreme Court only. Paracha said that he had come to the Supreme Court not to defend the contempt of court law but to assist the court.
Sohail Khan adds: Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Wednesday set an August 8 deadline for Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to write the letter to Swiss authorities on the issue of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
A five-member larger bench of the apex court headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa heard the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) judgment implementation case. Attorney General Irfan Qadir assured the court that the government would make serious efforts to resolve the ongoing crisis.
In its short order on Wednesday, the court ruled that upon the request of the learned attorney general to solve the so-called stand off between two critical institutions, the court believed that bridging the gap between the two institutions was not impossible and they would like a solution to the pending issue by August 8.
Justice Asif Khosa said the court took decisions based on points of law whereas politicians were trained to make adjustments which the court could not. “The solution is there and we have a static position that a letter should be written requesting that the earlier request of Malik Qayyum be ignored,” Justice Khosa said. “Your position is that the president enjoys immunity under international law. He is also our president and we have great respect and honour for the office of the president,” Justice Khosa told the AG. “If you want, we will write in our decision that the president enjoys immunity under international law,” he said, adding that the court did not want to derail any system, person or office but wanted the principal law officer to play his due role in resolving the issue.
Earlier, Attorney General Irfan Qadir submitted that the existing perceptions were incorrect, as there were major flaws in the NRO verdict. He contended that no officer of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) could be issued direction by this court under the NRO judgment. Likewise, he contended that no officer of NAB was answerable to this court.
The AG submitted that the court should not take upon itself responsibilities and functions of the executive and legislature. “In my view every institution requires the same respect as the judiciary,” he said, requesting Justice Khosa to consider the right of propriety and recuse.
The AG further contended that there are certain judicial orders that could not be implemented. “I have filed an appeal before the court but the Registrar office placed objections; therefore I require some time to file it again,” he said.
During the course of the proceedings, NAB Prosecutor General KK Agha informed the court about progress made in Adnan Khawaja, Malik Qayyum and Ahmed Riaz Sheikh cases. He told the court that the investigation regarding the out of rule appointment of Adnan Khawaja as OGDCL chief had been completed and the matter was now in prosecution phase. He said the NAB Board would decide upon the matter in the next 2-3 weeks.
About Ahmed Riaz Sheikh, the court was informed that the decision had been made to file references against three persons within three weeks after the conclusion of probe. The NAB prosecutor general said that Malik Qayyum was under treatment abroad but cooperating with NAB in the instant investigation.
Dr Abdul Basit, counsel for Ahmed Riaz Sheikh and Adnan A Khawaja, contended before the court that NAB had decided to file references against his client to which he had no objection but pleaded that the court should stop monitoring his clients.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing till August 8. Earlier, the court had on July 12 directed the prime minister to write the letter by July 25 and submit the compliance report. The federation filed a reply before the court through the attorney general on July 24, refusing to comply with the court order, contending that the incumbent prime minister hds not reviewed any advice from the cabinet relating to the implementation of Para 178 of the NRO judgment so he was not obliged constitutionally to implement the court order. The federation stated in its reply that the prime minister could comply with the court order if he were advised by the federal cabinet to write the letter to Swiss authorities.