ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has formed an eight-member bench to hear Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s appeal against contempt charges.
The bench will be headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and will hear the plea on Thursday (tomorrow). Justice Shakirullah Jan is also part of the bench.
Earlier on Wednesday, the prime minister filed an appeal through his lawyer in the Supreme Court against the contempt charges.
Aitzaz had earlier, after the last hearing of the case, told the media that he would advise the prime minister to file an appeal.
"An appeal has been filed. It has been received in the court," a senior official at the Supreme Court told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The 200-page appeal pointed out 53 legal and constitutional points which emphasise that the prime minister did not go against the Constitution by not writing a letter.
It also said that the court cannot question the prime minister's responsibilities according to the Article 248 of the Constitution.
Barrister Ahsan said he based the appeal on precedents set by top courts in Australia, Britain, France, India and the United States.
"I have filed an appeal today. I have quoted more than 50 national and international cases and given specific reasons against the Supreme Court order," Ahsan told reporters.
He further said that there was no need for the premier to appear before the court as, according to the contempt of court law, a new bench needs to be formed after an appeal is filed.
“A respondent has 30 days to file an appeal against the court’s decision. I asked for 30 days, but the bench only gave me 11 days… We have tried to file the appeal as soon as possible so that a larger bench – larger than the current one – can be formed,” said Ahsan while talking to the media outside the court.
“Excluding the judges that are currently hearing the case, there are nine judges who can form a new bench for the hearing of the case… The new bench will definitely include Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry,” he added.
Ahsan had several times stated that he will not appear before the chief justice in the hearing of any case, but during the press conference today, he agreed to appear before the CJ.
The lawyer added: “My objection is that the court in its order on February 2 cited no specific reasons for initiating contempt of court proceedings against the prime minister.”
The seven-member bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, had concluded its preliminary hearings on February 2 and had decided that it has sufficient cause to summon Prime Minister Gilani once again and frame contempt of court charges against him.
The prime minister agreed to appear personally before the court on February 13 for the second time in this case.
"It depends on the court to stay the proceedings and decide against summoning the prime minister on February 13," Ahsan said.
If convicted of contempt, the prime minister could be jailed for up to six months and disqualified from public office.
Legal experts say that Gilani can only avoid being charged by appealing, apologising or promising to write to the Swiss.
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