Despite discord over whether the government should aim for an appeal or use the National Assembly speaker’s office as a strategy, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has given his approval to a draft of the appeal prepared by his defence team. The draft consists of around 150 objections to last month’s Supreme Court verdict convicting him on charges of contempt.
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, the lead counsel for the premier, shared the draft of the appeal with him in a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. Prime Minister Gilani approved the draft after some “fine-tuning” and gave his counsel the go-ahead to file the draft once a final decision is made, sources said.
“Almost 150 questions have been raised against the April 26 short order as well as the May 8 detailed verdict. All (these) questions in my opinion require detailed examination. I cannot share more than this with any one at this moment,” Aitzaz remarked while talking to The Express Tribune.
Meanwhile, the legal brains of the government remain divided over the option of filing an appeal, with some saying that the speaker should be exercising her authority and use the provision under article 248-1 that grants the prime minister immunity against actions he takes in good faith.
When asked if a final decision has been taken over exercising the appeal option, Aitzaz replied: “All options are open at the moment.”
Sources said lead counsel Aitzaz Ahsan is a strong opponent of using the speaker’s office and has been pressing the government to use the right of appeal. The appeal is likely to be filed on Friday or Saturday, before the legally granted 30 days deadline expires.
A close aide of Aitzaz said that according to the defence team’s point of view, the appeal will have to be filed before the lapse of the deadline, the countdown for which started on April 26 – although there has been some controversy in legal circles over whether the countdown started on the day of the short order or the detailed verdict. Sources in the attorney general’s office told The Express Tribune that the main contents of the appeal will include objections like the prime minister’s written statement not being considered during the hearing of the case.
Secondly, the initial charge framed in the contempt of court case did not include the words “ridicule” which were later made part of the decision. Under the law, the decision is made on the basis of framed charges. Thirdly, the attorney general, acting as the prosecutor, could not find any evidence from the official record against the premier but he was convicted all the same.
Another key point in the proposed appeal draft will be that the newly included constitutional provision under article 10-A that grants every accused a guarantee of a fair trial was not exercised in this case. According to the defence team, the judges who initiate proceedings on their own cannot be judges for their own cause. Moreover, under section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) at the end of every trial an accused is given an opportunity to be heard before a final decision is made. The defence team claims that this was not done in this case.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2012.