The government’s top legal wizards are sifting through the Supreme Court’s latest order in the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case in search for ‘marked contradictions’ with its previous decision, in order to build arguments for a review petition.
Insiders told The Express Tribune on Thursday that Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf is likely to hold a meeting with his legal team on Friday to decide whether to file a review petition against the Supreme Court order. A five-member bench in its written order earlier in the day ordered Raja to write a letter to Swiss authorities for reopening closed graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari and submit a compliance report by July 25.
In its original decision in the NRO implementation case, the court issued directions to the government to make sure the verdict is implemented, including paragraph 178, which calls upon the government to write a letter to Swiss authorities. “Now here we have a contradiction … first order was to the government and this one is to the premier. Judgment in the same case can never be substantially altered like that. This is what we are going to use as a pretext of our appeal,” said a top official privy to the development. The official went on to add that, under the Constitution, the government is a well defined structure, comprising the prime minister and the cabinet as well. While on the other hand, the premier is just an individual.
“This is what makes a substantial alteration in the decision … constitutionally, a smaller bench can’t alter the verdict given by a larger one. This is a legal lacuna in today’s order and we are going to exploit it,” said the official requesting anonymity.
When contacted, the prime minister’s special assistant on political affairs, Fawad Chaudhry, also confirmed that the prime minister had convened a meeting with his legal team and the filing of a review petition or an appeal would be at centre of discussions. Asked how high the chances were of the government filing a review, Chaudhry said: “Significant. I think we will go for that.”
Meanwhile, former chief justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui also said the government had the option of filing a review against the latest order to the prime minister, but its scope was going to be limited.
“The government might play its first card by filing a review appeal based on the new contempt of court ordinance against the fresh order” said Justice (retd) Siddiqui. He added, however, the review appeal will have a limited scope since it will only consider errors in the judicial record and not review the case entirely. “I don’t think they will get much out of it,” Siddiqui told The Express Tribune, when asked about the possible outcome of an appeal.
Advocate Athar Minallah was not too optimistic about the government’s right to exploit ‘contradictions’ in the two separate orders by the SC. “It doesn’t constitute a very strong constitutional or legal argument for an appeal … the bottom line is that a Supreme Court decision is out and it has to be implemented,” said Minallah, who was Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s spokesperson when former military ruler Pervez Musharraf deposed him in 2007. Fawad Chaudhry also said the government expected a larger bench to hear the review petition if it is filed because it would involve decisions made by two separate benches. But, Advocate Abid Hassan Manto was of the view that the same bench would hear the review, if it is filed.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2012.
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