ISLAMABAD: We are left with no other option but to issue Prime Minister Gilani with a show-cause notice for explaining why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him…
It was on the cards. But the impact of its eventual arrival was still intense.
Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq appeared stunned.
The incumbents received another hit on Monday after the Supreme Court issued Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani a contempt of court notice during the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case hearing.
The seven-judge bench of the SC ordered the prime minister to appear before the court on January 19.
PM Gilani had failed to comply with the Supreme Court’s order issued on December 16, 2009, for sending a request to Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, the bench noted.
Justice Nasirul Mulk, who is heading the bench, had asked the attorney general to state if he had any reservations regarding the six options the court had spelled out for itself to exercise in the wake of the non-compliance – at which point the attorney general informed the bench that he had received no instructions from the prime minister on how to proceed in the case.
“I do know that consultations on the case continued till late night. However, I was not given any instructions until 2:00 am, when I switched off my mobile,” he said.
Later the same day, however, Prime Minister Gilani, while speaking on the floor of the house, said he would appear before the court on January 19.
Past and present
In the past, former premier Nawaz Sharif received a contempt of court notice for criticising former chief justice Sajjad Ali.
Under Article 63 of the Constitution, the prime minister could potentially face a ban on contesting elections for up to five years if convicted in the contempt proceedings, prominent jurist Hamid Khan told The Express Tribune.
Issued under the Contempt of Court Act 2003, coupled with Article 204 of the Constitution, the government has the option of challenging the show-cause notice through an intra court appeal (ICA), Khan said.
According to the law, contempt proceedings against any person remain suspended until a larger bench — other than the bench that issued the notice — decides the ICA.
National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Admiral (retd) Fasih Bokhari’s counsel Justice (retd) Shaiq Usmani informed the bench that his client was misadvised on how to proceed against those whose conviction stood restored after the NRO judgment. On the last date of hearing, the court had found Bokhari’s attitude to be contumacious and his statement in defiance of the court order.
Bokhari had refused to proceed against Adnan Khwaja and Ahmed Riaz Sheikh, who were appointed in violation of the NRO verdict as managing director of the OGDCL and additional director of the FIA. He had also refused to act against former attorney general Malik Muhammad Qayyum, who wrote a letter to the Swiss authorities for withdrawing money-laundering cases against Zardari.
NAB Prosecutor General KK Agha also admitted that he had given wrong advice to the chairman for he had misinterpreted the court order.
The proceedings will resume on January 19.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2012.