|Top speed of contempt law leads govt nowhere|
13 July 2012
ISLAMABAD: The top speed at which the new contempt law was bulldozed through the National Assembly and the Senate, almost without any debate, turned out to be inconsequential as no occasion for its invocation arosein the NRO implementation case against Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf heard by the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Not even a passing mention of the new legislation was made during the judicial proceedings or elsewhere on the premises of the apex court. President Asif Ali Zardari signed the law a few hours before these proceedings.
The government thought that since the prime minister would not submit his reply to Justice Asif Saeed Khosa led five-member bench about writing letters to Switzerland, he would be issued a show-cause notice for contempt instantly.
However, the bench showed no haste in reaching this conclusion as it elected to follow the elaborate procedure and process before serving such a notice. It gave ample time to the new prime minister to ponder over sending letters to the Swiss authorities once again and finally write the communication to end the saga.
The official plan was to quickly bring into play the new contempt law, if Pervaiz Ashraf was issued a show cause notice, and seek his trial under the fresh legislation that was specifically framed to bail him out.
However, if the expert opinion of Supreme Court Bar Association President Yasin Azad is to be given credence and weight, the prime minister would be tried under the Constitution and the old contempt law and the new statute would not apply in this case if the bench decided to hold his trial on the contempt charge.
As the bench furnished a final opportunity to Pervaiz Ashraf to write the requisite letter, it may issue the show-cause notice for contempt to him if he chose to defy the direction. Only then the question of the application of contempt law would arise and government lawyers would bring in the fresh legislation.
Legal experts say the process that the bench unfolded on Thursday would lead to serving the prime minister with a contempt show cause notice because it is clear to all and sundry that PM Ashraf is religiously following his predecessor.
When disqualified, PM Yusuf Raza Gilani had repeatedly taken refuge behind the advice of the law minister and ministry for not writing the letter during the contempt proceedings against him, the concerned bench had ordered him to do so without seeking counsel from any official quarter. But still he did not obey the direction.
The panel had ruled that regardless of any advice tendered earlier or in future, the prime minister, being chief executive of the federation, who admittedly has the final say in the executive domain, shall implement the directions given in Paras 177 and 178 of the judgment in the NRO case.
The Thursday’s order said that it goes without saying that all the directions issued by the Supreme Court during the implementation proceedings apply with equal force to the present incumbent of the office of the prime minister/chief executive of the federation as he has merely stepped into the shoes of his predecessor in office and, thus, he too is bound to implement the relevant directions of this court ‘regardless of any advice tendered earlier or in future’. “We, therefore, reiterate the said directions to the prime minister requiring him to act in the matter forthwith.”
The bench said it was constrained to observe that it finds it difficult to appreciate or accept the prime minister’s response, given to it on Thursday, that the matter of writing the letter was taken up in Wednesday’s federal cabinet meeting, which desired that the Law Ministry should furnish its views as regards the implementation of the relevant paragraph of the NRO judgment and as and when the Law Ministry renders its opinion in the matter the cabinet shall then take decision in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.”
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