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Govt weighs options to save premier

August 05, 2012


Sources said there was also a likelihood of moving another review petition by the government against the July 12 order of the Supreme Court in which the prime minister(above)  had been asked to implement the NRO judgment. – File Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: Piqued by the Supreme Court’s striking down of the Contempt of Court Act 2012 (Coca), the coalition government seems locked in intense deliberations, weighing options to move a petition seeking review of the court order or promulgating a new law through an ordinance.

An informed source dropped a hint on Saturday that legal minds were in the process of developing new contentions to challenge the Aug 3 short order issued by a five-judge Supreme Court bench, setting aside the entire law of contempt and resurrecting the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003.

“I can’t say about filing or not filing, but it is for sure that the review petition is being inked,” the source said.

The thing that has put the government on edge is the fast approaching Aug 8 when a five-judge bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will resume the NRO judgment implementation case.

The federal government has already conceded before the court that the motive behind the new Coca (contempt of court act) was to save the second prime minister from being sent home.

Attorney General Irfan Qadir agreed that the government had a host of options. One of them was to institute a review petition against the verdict which, according to him, was “void and can be ignored”.

“An opportunity could be given to the judiciary through the review petition to rectify the wrong it has done and restore its dignity and honour through its order,” the AG said.

“I am surprised that despite my pleadings for restraint, the court changed the Constitution instead of interpreting the law by stretching the meaning of “fundamental rights” too far,” he remarked.

Asked about the possibility of promulgating the new contempt law through an ordinance, the AG did not rule it out, claiming that the law would clarify many things and remove the confusion caused by the old piece of legislation.

Talking to Dawn, Barrister Zafarullah Khan of the PML-N agreed that the government still had an option to file the review petition if it was not happy with the judgment. Or in the alternative the ordinance can be issued in emergency as legislative process by parliament to enact a new law on contempt is time consuming, he said.

Instead of hatching conspiracies, the government should come out in the open with clean hands and clear intentions about what they are planning, he said.

However in case the government intends to legislate another contempt law through parliament, the draft law should be widely circulated to get the input from all stakeholders, including the legal fraternity, members of the civil society and jurists, he suggested.

A meeting of the coalition partners was held late on Friday night where it was decided that the administration headed by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf would not write a letter to the Swiss authorities for reopening graft cases worth $60 million against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Meanwhile, the sources said there was also a likelihood of moving another review petition by the government against the July 12 order of the Supreme Court in which the prime minister had been asked to implement the NRO judgment.

If filed, it will be done before Aug 8, and it will be pleaded that the prime minister cannot be asked through the order for implementation of an ‘un-implementable’ directive given in the NRO case.

On July 12, the special bench headed by Justice Khosa had asked Prime Minister Ashraf to submit a report about complying with the NRO judgment which required writing the letter to Swiss authorities. The court had warned that it could initiate any appropriate action under the Constitution if the government failed to fulfil the order.

The government states in the proposed review petition that there is no question whatsoever of revival of Pakistan’s status as a damaged party by writing the letter to the Swiss authorities because the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction is limited to the territory of Pakistan. If the apex court itself is not in a position to seek revival of Pakistan’s status as a damaged party then it also has no mandate to force the prime minister to do the same, it contends.

After the conclusion of the Swiss investigations, Pakistan has no role to play in these matters, the application says.