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Contempt law: Govt to file review petition in SC

August 05, 2012


President Asif Ali Zardari chairs a meeting. – File Photo by PPI

ISLAMABAD: After intense deliberations and consultations with constitutional and legal experts, the coalition government decided on Sunday to move a petition in the Supreme Court by next week, seeking review of the court order in which the apex court had struck down the Contempt of Court Act 2012 (Coca), DawnNews reported.

President Asif Ali Zardari held a detailed meeting with the Law Minister Farooq. H. Naek to discuss the available options to save the second prime minister from being sent home.

Before that, the president held meetings with various legal and constitutional experts of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

The sources claimed 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.

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.

The thing that has put the government on edge is the fast approaching August 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 had 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 had remarked.

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.

The law

The contempt of court law had been hurriedly passed by the ruling government in a bid to protect the incumbent prime minister from facing the same fate as his predecessor.

The law exempts “holders of public office” from the mischief of contempt in “exercise of powers and performance of functions” and allows for suspension of a sentence during the pendency of an appeal.

The main opposition party in the National Assembly, the PML-N, had objected to the passage of the law saying it was not sent to relevant standing committees for deliberation.

Earlier on Aug 3, the chief justice said that the new law was contrary to the provisions of several articles of the Constitution, including Article 63(1)(g), Article(25), Article 204(1) and Article 204(2) of the Constitution.

The verdict states: “While enacting COCA 2012… [an] attempt has been made to reduce the powers of the Court as has been indicated in different provisions..”.

It adds that “no immunity can be granted to the public office holders in violation of Article 25 of the Constitution.”