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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has expressed “disappointment” over the rejection of the review petitions in the fake bank accounts case and called for an early determination of the limits of suo moto powers of the Supreme Court.

In a statement, PPP secretary general and former senator Farhatullah Babar said the points raised in the review petitions, particularly with regard to the limitations on exercise of suo motu powers, were of fundamental importance and called for a parliamentary debate to determine limits of these powers.

Mr Babar also recalled an interview of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in Munich (Germany) in which he underlined that he had not been given an opportunity to present his point of view in a court of law in the said case which, he said, was a negation of the constitutionally guaranteed right to fair trial under Article 10-A of the Constitution.

In his interview to the media in Germany on Monday night, the PPP chairman complained that he had not been heard at all during the case and that his right to fairly trial was affected. He said the PPP had always respected the court’s verdict, but in this case the “credibility of the judiciary and my right of fair trial have been undermined”.

Bilawal says his right of fair trial ‘undermined’; party wants review of court’s limits under Article 184(3)

He said that during the hearing of the case, the chief justice had asked a member of the joint investigation team (JIT) why his name had been included in the report, but there was no answer.

“The chief justice gave an order then which the whole country heard but the written judgement is different. How can the written judgement not reflect this observation?” he asked, referring to the observations made by then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar.

“There can’t be a disparity between a verbal order and the written order,” he said, adding that he wanted to know the “rationale behind it” and wanted to know “if it is an innocent clerical error”.

He further said the case should be heard by the accountability court in Karachi, instead of Rawalpindi, as there was no legal basis for shifting the case.

“For the Bhuttos, a Karbala had always been prepared in Rawalpindi, and we are ready for it,” he said in an apparent reference to the hanging of the party’s founding chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 and the assassination of his mother and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

He said that they would plead before the court to shift the case to Sindh. He also said that he was taking this petition seriously. He said that many in the party believed that the PPP had never got justice from the courts, but he said that he wanted to go to the court to bring his viewpoint on record.

Meanwhile, Mr Babar said that Mr Bhutto-Zardari had in his petition asked whether slackness in the progress of a case constituted a valid ground for use of suo motu powers when an FIR had been registered, investigations were continuing, preliminary report had been finalised and the case was proceeding in banking court.

“That is why the review petition also urged the Supreme Court to constitute a larger bench to address the constitutional issue of limits of suo motu powers,” Mr Babar said, adding that the Supreme Court was the highest court of appeal against which there was no appeal and when it decided a case by taking a suo moto notice, the aggrieved was left with no forum to appeal the verdict. “Absence of a forum for appeal is against the basic principle of justice and, therefore, it is all the more necessary to revisit the procedure for taking up cases under suo motu powers,” he added.

He said the PPP would work towards a parliamentary debate on Article 184(3) of the Constitution with a view to making legislation for determination of the powers under suo motu jurisdiction, he said.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2019