LAHORE, June 29: A full bench of Lahore High Court has released its order in the contempt of court petitions against President Asif Ali Zardari and directed the additional attorney general to serve its order on the president through his principal secretary.

On Wednesday, the bench had called upon the president to give up his political activities by Sept 5 in accordance with a May 12, 2011, judgment issued by a larger bench against the holding of the office of PPP co-chairman by him.

In its written order released on Friday, the full bench also directed its office to send it to the president’s principal secretary through courier service. The bench asked the principal secretary to inform it in writing on Sept 5 about President Asif Ali Zardari’s stance regarding compliance with the May 12 judgment. The bench also directed its office to issue fresh notice to the attorney general to assist the court on different constitutional aspects of the case.

The bench also admitted an argument of petitioner’s counsel that the court invoke the principle set by Supreme Court in suo motu case (PLD 2012 S.C 533) wherein the court had given former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani time and opportunity for complying with the judicial directions given in the Dr Mubashar Hassan and others vs Federation (PLD 2010 S.C 265) case. The counsel urged the court to also invite president to comply with the May 12 judgment and to give him time for the purpose.

Admitting this argument, the bench observed: “It is prime facie clear that law declared by this court in exercise of its constitutional jurisdiction has enforceable legal effect and binding force that no further judicial steps can or are required to enhance the enforceability of such declaration of law.

“In the present case, the respondent (President) has also accepted the judgment (May 12, 2011) by not challenging the same. That confers finality on the judgment and stops the respondent from challenging it,” the bench observed.

It further observed: “It is also plain that even after the lapse of one year following the judgment, the respondent (President) continues to retain in his private capacity the office of Co-Chairperson of the Pakistan People’s Party. Prima facie the forgoing facts are such that these require further probes by this court.

“Nevertheless at the inceptional stage in the contempt matter, it is fair and just that the respondent is apprised of the forgoing position, the law declared by full bench of this court in Pakistan Lawyer’s Forum case (PLD 2011 Lahore 382) and the obligations cast upon him as a result of the judgment. It is expected that the respondent (President) shall appreciate that his obligations under the judgment have further crystallized on account of his acceptance,” the order added.

The full bench observed that it was appropriate that the president should be given time and opportunity to comply with the judgment and to state such facts before the court that, demonstrate such compliance.

The bench also dismissed as withdrawn another petition seeking direction in nature of a writ of prohibition requiring President Zardari to act in accordance with the May 12 judgment. The bench asked the petitioner’s counsel to only sustain the petition that sought contempt of court proceedings against the president.

The bench admitted another argument of the counsel that court proceedings attendant upon the commission of “civil contempt” did not fall within the pale of “criminal proceedings” to incur the prohibition contained in Article 248 (2) of the Constitution. The full bench comprised Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

Updated Jun 29, 2012 11:04pm

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