The Supreme Court witnessed on Thursday, as Justice Jawwad put it, “unique” proceedings to say the least.
With Attorney General Irfan Qadir’s harsh words towards the three-member bench and an ensuing protest by lawyers, the ongoing standoff between the government and the judiciary was intensified on Thursday.
The Supreme Court was hearing petitions filed against the National Assembly speaker’s May 24 ruling in favour of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani following his conviction in a contempt case.
The altercation started when Attorney General Irfan Qadir claimed that all the judges who had convicted the prime minister had “run away” from the court’s premises as soon as the verdict was announced. He added that Prime Minister Gilani wanted to file a verbal appeal but could not do so.
During Thursday’s hearing, the court observed that its verdict in the prime minister’s contempt case was a conceded judgment as no one challenged it.
However, the premier’s counsel, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan stood up from his seat to record his protest, saying that he was about to request the court for a suspension of the conviction on April 26 but the seven-judge bench did not allow him to speak.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry asked him to record this objection in an appeal against the seven-judge bench’s decision.
Aitzaz requested the court to adjourn the hearing till next week. However, the court declined his request and adjourned the hearing till Friday (June 15).
Attorney general gets fired up
Attorney General Qadir questioned why the bench was in such a rush regarding the case, adding that the disqualification of the chief executive of the country would topple the entire system. He told the court to slow down and give proper time to the petitioners to argue their case.
A miffed chief justice hit back at him: who are you to dictate us on how to conduct court proceedings, while petitioners have no objection?
The court asked Qadir to argue the case on his turn in length and assured that the bench would not bar him from arguing for long hours.
However, in harsh words, Qadir told the court that after convicting the prime minister, all the judges had “run away” from the courtroom without hearing Aitzaz’s formulations. He said that the media was also witness of the incident, and added that he and Aitzaz would submit affidavits in this regard.
The chief justice asked Qadir to mind his language. “Don’t ridicule the judiciary in this manner,” the bench told Qadir. But the attorney general kept repeating his words loudly, again and again.
Justice Jawwad observed that Wednesday’s proceedings were unlike any he had witnessed as a judge during his 14-year long career.
To this, the attorney general stood up once again and said that it was also unique for him in his 22-year long legal career.
While Qadir continued trying to confront the court, hundreds of lawyers began chanting slogans against him and stood up from their seats in protest against what they termed was shameful conduct by the chief law officer with the highest court of the country.
A heavy contingent of the police was called into the courtroom by Registrar of the court to control the situation.
The petitions, including those filed by Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, had challenged the speaker’s ruling and demanded the prime minister’s disqualification after he was convicted of contempt by the apex court in April.
In his arguments, PTI’s counsel Hamid Khan told the court that the speaker’s ruling was misleading, He added that Mirza usurped the authority and the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court as after the apex court’s verdict the role of speaker and election commission becomes a constitutional formality.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2012.
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