On Friday, a five-member SC bench, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, declared CoCA null and void, making it clear that the court has the right to hold anyone in contempt regardless of one’s office.
President Asif Zardari met PPP legal experts last night to discuss options to save his second prime minster from being sent home. He also met Law Minister Farooq H Naek and held a detailed discussion with him.
The PPP leadership decided to place the apex court decision on CoCA-2012 before the national assembly to discuss and decide about the issue. “It would be premature at this stage to say if the government would bring another contempt of court legislation “, a sources told The Nation on Sunday.
Sources said there was also a likelihood of government’s filing another review petition against the July 12 order of the apex court in which the prime minister had been asked to implement the NRO judgment. If filed, it will be done before Aug 8, and it will be pleaded that the court cannot ask the PM to implement an ‘un-implementable’ directive.
Zardari’s one loyal prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, has already been sent packing on contempt charges after he refused to follow court orders regarding writing a letter to Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases against his party boss.
A similar fate hangs over Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who has also so far baulked from writing to the Swiss, but stands exposed to contempt prosecution after CoCA abrogation when the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case resumes on August 8.
Interestingly, the federal government has already conceded before the five-judge bench led by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa hearing the NRO implementation case that the motive behind the CoCA was to save the second prime minister from being sent home. Analysts said the purpose of filing review pleas is just to buy more time, as the PPP has been doing earlier.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir was reported to be agreeing to the suggestion that the government had a host of options. One of them was to institute a review petition against the Aug 3 verdict which, according to him, was “void and can be ignored”.
“An opportunity could be given to the judiciary through the review petition to rectify the wrong it has done and restore its dignity and honour through its order,” the AG was quoted as saying. “I am surprised that despite my pleadings for restraint, the court changed the constitution instead of interpreting the law by stretching the meaning of ‘fundamental rights’ too far,” he remarked.
Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the PML-N told a media outlet that the government still had an option to file the review petition if it was not happy with the judgment. Or, the PPP could go for issuing a presidential ordinance in emergency as legislative process by parliament to enact a new law on contempt is time consuming, he said.
The main opposition party in the National Assembly, the PML-N, had objected to the passage of the law saying it was not sent to relevant standing committees for deliberation.