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Senators want end to parliament-judiciary row

July 31, 2012

ISLAMABAD, July 31: A day after the Supreme Court tried to pacify parliamentarians who have been reacting angrily over certain remarks of the judges about the opposition’s role in parliament, the senators from treasury and opposition benches agreed on Tuesday to have a thorough debate on the jurisdiction of parliament and judiciary to end the controversy once and for all.

The proposal for the debate came from Senate Chairman Nayyar Bokhari when a number of senators speaking on points of order once again brought the conduct of the judges under discussion.

The Senate concluded the debate on the March 17 address of President Asif Ali Zardari to the joint sitting of parliament.

Interestingly, PPP’s coalition partner Awami National Party refused to participate in the debate on the presidential address as a mark of protest against excessive loadshedding in parts of the country.

ANP’s Zahid Khan said that his party could not praise the president at a time when the nation was agitating over loadshedding, price hike and poor law and order situation.The ANP senators then staged a walkout and came back to the house only after winding up the debate on the presidential address by Leader of the House Jahangir Badar.

The controversy about the role of judiciary started when PPP’s Saeed Ghani once again questioned the conduct of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry during the hearing of the suo motu notice on the alleged graft scam involving his son Arsalan Iftikhar and real estate tycoon Malik Riaz.

The PPP senator asked the chair to explain if the chief justice had not “violated his oath” by sitting in the bench hearing the graft case involving his son.

Another PPP Senator Aijaz Dhamrah criticised remarks by judges questioning the role of opposition during the passage of the contempt of court law, saying that in fact the judiciary had incited the opposition.

He said that parliamentarians should know their limits while discussing the issues related to the judiciary.He said that remarks by judges had even been criticised by Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. PML-N’s Syed Zafar Ali Shah asked the chairman to expunge the remarks made by Mr Ghani, saying that under the Constitution, parliamentarians could not discuss the conduct of the judges.

The Senate chairman, instead of agreeing to the proposal, suggested that there should be a debate on the subject because the Supreme Court had also summoned the record of parliamentary proceedings whereas Articles 66 and 69 provided certain protections to parliamentarians.

PML-N’s Zafar Ali Shah agreed to the chairman’s proposal that there should be a debate in the house on the issue.

He said the Constitution did not bar the judges from giving their observations on proceedings of parliament.He said if the government wanted the judges not to speak on the parliamentary proceedings then it should amend the Constitution.

However, he said, it was clear under the Constitution that the legislators could not discuss the conduct of the judges on the floor of the house.

Zahid Khan said he had already submitted a motion to the Senate secretariat seeking discussion on powers and jurisdiction of judiciary and parliament.

The Senate chairman said the secretariat would look into it and the law minister would also be asked to initiate the process.

On July 27, members of the treasury had also expressed concern over the judges’ remarks and said the judiciary should exercise restraint in dealing with parliament.

The new controversy about the role of judiciary and parliament came to surface last week when during the hearing of 27 identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act of 2012, the Supreme Court judges had observed that the opposition should have resisted the passage of the law, instead of walking out of the house.