Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan. — File photo

ISLAMABAD: A day before the formal hearing by the Supreme Court of a contempt of court charge against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, his counsel submitted on Monday a miscellaneous application requesting two top government officers and a former law minister to be summoned as court witnesses.

Instead of submitting evidence relating to the contempt of court against the prime minister, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan requested the court to summon Cabinet and Defence Secretary Nargis Sethi, Law Secretary Masood Chishti and former law minister Babar Awan to record their statements as court witnesses.

A seven-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, will commence on Tuesday contempt of court proceedings against the prime minister for not pursuing in Switzerland graft cases also involving President Asif Ali Zardari.

On Feb 16, Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq had submitted evidence relating to the contempt of court against the prime minister. It contained 43 documents (469 pages in four volumes) mainly consisting of different court orders — Dec 16, 2010, NRO verdict, Nov 25, 2011, SC judgments in the NRO review petition and NRO implementation case from May 24, 2010, to Feb 16, 2012, in Ahmed Riaz Sheikh and Adnan A. Khawaja cases.

In his three-page miscellaneous application, Barrister Ahsan requested the court to direct the law secretary to produce May 21, 2010, and Sept 21, 2010, summaries on the basis of which the prime minister had decided not to write a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening $60 million money laundering cases. He also sought a court direction for the law secretary to produce the orders issued by the accused prime minister on these summaries.

The withheld documents, the counsel said, had also been referred to in the evidence submitted by the prosecution. He contended that the prosecution would have no right to cross-examine court witnesses because that would put at an unfair advantage prejudicing the accused.

Therefore, Barrister Ahsan said, these witnesses should be produced as court witnesses for a fair trial.

“Since defence of the accused (prime minister) rests mainly on these summaries containing history of the issue, background, previous opinions and proposals, these summaries are necessary.”

In his private or personal capacity, the counsel explained, the accused could not and did not wish to exercise the official power and authority of the office of the prime minister to direct or require any official to appear as a witness even though he sought the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses in his defence against the charge.

“With respect to private individuals, the prime minister has no power or authority to summon the officials because requiring officials to appear as defence witnesses in a matter personal and private to the accused may amount to exertion of undue influence in a private/individual cause. The accused desires and is required by law not to commit any such impropriety,” the application said.

The court, on the other hand, can exercise its power to summon the record and officials identified by the accused as court witnesses in accordance with the principles spelled out in sections 94 and 540 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Meanwhile, Shahid Orakzai challenged the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003, issued by what he called former military president Pervez Musharraf and requested the Supreme Court to suspend all contempt proceedings till a ruling on the impugned ordinance.