ISLAMABAD: Both sides stuck to their guns during the hearing of an intra-court appeal in the prime minister’s contempt case on Thursday.
The Supreme Court made it clear that short of an assurance to implement the NRO judgment Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani could not escape contempt charge, while his counsel Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan said it should not be like a “trade”, he had no authority to make such a declaration and he wanted to contest the case on merit.
“I am standing here before the court in appeal against the contempt charges only,” he said.
An eight-judge bench was hearing a challenge to the summoning of the prime minister by a smaller bench for framing contempt of the court charge.
After extraordinarily long proceedings the court asked the counsel to conclude his arguments by 10.30am on Friday because many members of the bench had altered their commitments only because of his stature and standing.
Barrister Ahsan kept reminding the bench that he would not vitiate the congeniality and warmth the bench had for him and listened patiently to a volley of questions and observations by the judges.
The verdict was ‘not implementable’, he said.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry praised Barrister Ahsan’s decision to appear before him, saying the court had been missing a person of his calibre, but objected to certain questions and the language used in the appeal.
The court observed that by saying that he had ordered before taking oath as the chief executive of the country the release of the judges detained by the military dictator the prime minister had not embarrassed the court but himself.
The chief justice said the prime minister ought not to have claimed the relief or presumed that some relief should be given to him for freeing the judges because an impression was being created as if the judiciary was influenced on account of alleged favours extended to its members by releasing them.
Barrister Ahsan said the questions had been framed with a view to showing respect and deference to the judiciary and in no manner it should be considered that perhaps the judiciary was being influenced for any purpose.
The counsel then consulted his advocate-on-record and decided to delete paragraphs 45, 51 and 52 of the appeal from the pleadings.
The court said more than once that it was ready to discharge the notice if the prime minister extended an assurance that he would implement paragraph 178 of the judgment on the National Reconciliation Ordinance.
“The court is not happy to punish the prime minister in the contempt matter. Therefore, he should try to vindicate the courts by accepting that he was wrongly advised in the past not to implement the judgment,” it observed.
“It is not a small thing to call the prime minister in the contempt case. Look at the state of the economy and the effects on the stock exchange because of this case.”
It said non-implementation of the judgment fell under the meaning of perpetual contempt of court.
“There should also be no impediment in writing the letter (to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases) when the prime minister believes that the criminal proceedings abroad have terminated.”
Barrister Ahsan kept saying that the court had to decide the matter dispassionately without making it an issue of ego.
He said he wanted the same treatment as earlier received by the PCO judges.