Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has refused the federation’s request to consider Dr Khalid Ranjha as its counsel in the NRO review case, asserting that the Supreme Court will dispose of the review appeal if Kamal Azfar refuses to represent the government.
A 17-member full court bench headed by the chief justice has once again taken up the review petition against the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) verdict from Monday after a gap of six months. “Since you were the federation’s counsel in the case, you must continue according to the rules,” the chief justice remarked during the course of hearing. The bench directed him to inform the government about the court’s observation. Additional Attorney General KK Agha contended that Kamal Azfar was the lead counsel in the NRO case but he was later replaced by Latif Khosa who has now been appointed Punjab governor. The court had accepted the new counsel. But the CJP clarified that Latif Khosa was permitted to appear in the case because Kamal Azfar was not available. The court did not allow a change of counsel. Azfar had been nominated as an adviser to the prime minister at the time, but since then he has left the post.
He is available for other cases, KK Agha submitted, but the chief justice snubbed him and asked Azfar to consult the federation. Azfar requested the court to grant him some time for he was waiting for directions from the law ministry. “We will not allow the change of counsel, so you must come prepared to the court,” the CJ told Azfar. “Otherwise, the advocate on record may argue in your stead.” He said permission to change the counsel can only be granted in exceptional circumstances. “Therefore, Azfar will represent the federation in the NRO review.”
The chief justice also barred the counsels for former attorney general Malik Abdul Qayyum, former NAB chief Naveed Ahsan and ex-prosecutor general of NAB Dr Danishwar Malik from appearing on their behalf and directed the petitioners to appear in person before the full court bench since they were not a party in the NRO case. They had also filed review appeals against the NRO judgment.
Qayyum’s counsel Waseem Sajjad said that his client was sick and it is his fundamental right to hire a counsel to represent him. “We cannot allow you to represent him, in line with the judgment in Khurshid Anwar Bhinder’s case. The court is not denying fundamental rights. You do not realise the importance of the case for which a 17-member bench is in place,” the chief justice remarked.
Former additional prosecutor general NAB Abdul Baseer Qureshi, summoned by a court notice, submitted that since he was not the record-keeper, he could not produce the record before the court. “The NAB chairman provided the information to me with his signature,” he said. “The court repeatedly directed you to present the documents during the course of hearing of the NRO case but you did not comply. The record was provided neither by the chairman, nor the prosecutor general, nor you, although it was your duty,” the chief justice observed.
Justice Raja Fayyaz observed that the case was decided a year ago but the verdict is yet to be implemented. The court adjourned the case till Tuesday (today).
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2011.
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