The Supreme Court’s contempt hearing for Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani dragged on for yet another day on Thursday, with the premier’s lawyer insisting on a fair trial for his client under Article 10-A.
Aitzaz Ahsan argued that with the insertion of the article in the 18th Constitutional Amendment, the process of a fair trial is now a fundamental right of every person and added that Supreme Court’s rules are not superior to the Constitution.
As per Article 10-A, judges who initiated proceedings in suo motu cases are not eligible to sit in trial benches, he added.
“Any judge who takes notice of any incident without a petition filed or an FIR registered, automatically becomes a complainant in the case and hence is not eligible to hear the case,” he said.
The court asked if this bench disassociated itself from the hearing, then “where will you go for your right of appeal?”
Aitzaz, however, said that a small bench can also be constituted for the purpose.
When the prime minister’s counsel cited his formulations in the case, Justice Nasirul Mulk, heading a seven-member bench pointed out that they have already noted the submissions regarding Article 10-A.
Aitzaz, however, suggested the bench to listen patiently, as “you have already given me five days for arguments.” Justice Mulk, in turn, said: “It is time wasting.”
The prime minister’s counsel, while avoiding domestic immunity, claimed international immunity for President Zardari. “As long as he (Zardari) is the president, he enjoys immunity.”
“He is an elected, constitutional president, not an army general who came into power by force.” Aitzaz said, while presenting evidence before the court.
He argued that the contempt of court ordinance of 2003 is obsolete and that a new ordinance was presented in 2004. The premier’s counsel also said that his client had acted according to a summary sent by the ministry of law. While adjourning the hearing till April 13, the apex court directed the premier’s counsel to complete his evidence by Wednesday, April 18. Aitzaz, however, said that he could not promise if he would be able to complete the evidence by the given date.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2012.