ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Monday warned Attorney General Irfan Qadir not to repeat his arguments and be wary of his assertions, adding that the apex court could review the speaker’s ruling.
He made these observations while hearing a set of petitions filed to challenge the NA speaker’s ruling regarding disqualification of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani.
The CJP said a person who had been found guilty could not be allowed to decide the fate of 180 million people. “The petitions are of the view that fate of 180 million people is in the hand of such a person who has been sentenced by a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court.” Earlier, the three-member bench of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain resumed hearing in the cases. The court also directed the attorney general to complete his arguments, but Irfan Qadir successfully convinced the court to adjourn the case until today (Tuesday).
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, the counsel for the prime minister, contended that the court had no power to disqualify a member of parliament. He said the jurisdiction of the Election Commission could not be invoked directly without a reference from the NA speaker. The attorney general in his arguments, contended that the seven-member bench that convicted the prime minister had “travelled beyond its jurisdiction”
as the issue before it was whether the respondent had committed contempt or not. “The issue before the bench was not the disqualification of the PM but it was required to decide whether he had committed any contempt or not,” he added. He said the bench that decided the issue had failed to bring into zoom or sweep the likely consequences of Article 63 (1) (g). He further contended that the Supreme Court had no role to play in matters to be decided either by the NA speaker or the Election Commission of Pakistan. However, the chief justice disagreed with his argument and said the reasons could be taken up in an appeal. Qadir contended that the bench was accepting arguments from the petitioners but it was not accepting his contentions.
Responding to the bench’s query, the AG said all aspects of the issue had been taken care of by the speaker and she had written a very soft worded ruling. There was no contempt of court law in the country and the PM could not be held guilty for what could not be implemented in the NRO judgment, he added. Objecting to an additional note of a member of the seven-judge bench, the AG said the honourable judge had supported the verdict against the PM with mere six-page poetry, he added. He said it was unique in judicial precedents of the country that criminal case was decided on basis of poetry. However, the chief justice stopped him from repetition of the arguments by warning him.
The AG, however, responded that he would object to such kind of poetry as the highest office of chief executive in the country was ridiculed with such a note. He questioned whether the speaker should go through poetry? There was no mention of ridicule in the defunct contempt of court law, he asserted. He said all petitions should be dismissed as the petitioners had not approached the court with “clean hands”, especially the petitions of Imran Khan and Khwaja Asif which were filed for settling political scores against the ruling party and to gain public attention. He said Khwaja Asif was a “great liar” who was presenting a wrong impression on a TV programme.
The chief justice said they had already observed that there should be decorum in the courts and everybody was respectable. Qadir said live coverage of the proceedings should be allowed so that everybody should learn what was going on or at least such kind of misreporting should be banned. He said there were a number of contempt cases pending with the court but those had not been heard while the instant case was taken up and decided at a fast pace. Responding to another question of the bench, the AG said that there was no need to file an appeal or to move an application under Article 183, as it was evident from the past precedents that old cases could be revisited without an appeal, like Iqbal Tikka’s case. The AG would resume his arguments today.
Earlier, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan concluded his arguments in the case. He contended that the petitioners who approached the court under fundamental rights could not establish their which basic right had been breached. “The respondent is not convicted for an offence or sentenced which could have disqualified him. Every conviction does not mean disqualification,” he added. Aitzaz argued that the speaker’s ruling had considered that no question over scandalizing and ridiculing of the court had arisen so she took the right decision. “I will say in great humility and respect that the court has no powers to disqualify a member of the parliament. The case is to be sent to speaker whereas jurisdiction of the Election Commission could not be invoked directly without a reference from the speaker,” he added. Citing reason for not filing an appeal in the PM’s contempt case, the counsel said that the decision did not disqualify him so there was no need to move it. He contended that since the issue of disqualification of a member of the parliament was not the matter of public importance, so none of the petitioners were able to invoke provisions of fundamental rights.