The case that will determine the final fate of the prime minister has entered its last stage – and a verdict could be announced as early as today, once the attorney general concludes his arguments at 11am.
Giving further fuel to the speculations was a late-night press release from the Supreme Court announcing heightened security for today (Tuesday), citing the hearing of “high-profile cases.”
Charged proceedings on Monday saw the prime minister’s counsel, Aitzaz Ahsan, conclude his arguments in front of a seemingly unconvinced bench – which is hearing petitions challenging the National Assembly speaker’s earlier ruling that the prime minister was not liable to be disqualified after being held in contempt.
On a number of occasions, the bench said it could review the speaker’s decision.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry told Aitzaz: “Please keep in mind, some actions of the speaker are different and distinct from parliament and there are many judgments where actions taken by the speaker are subjected to judicial review.”
The chief justice also asked him why an appeal was not filed against the conviction. Aitzaz, without any hesitation, responded that the government feared a more unfavourable order in case an appeal was filed.
While concluding his arguments, the premier’s counsel told the court that for the final disqualification process, office of the National Assembly’s speaker would be used, to which the chief justice said “no”, adding that a 30-day deadline had already passed. Aitzaz said that even if the matter was referred to the Election Commission, before any final decision is made, they have right to present their stance before the commission.
National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, in a written reply submitted before a three-judge bench headed by the chief justice, held that the “speaker is the guardian of the rights of the honourable members of the National Assembly with distinct powers and she cannot be called in question.”
Mirza also asserted that there was no charge of ridiculing the judiciary on the prime minister. She also said that the ruling of the speaker or decision on any matter, within her cognizance given on the floor of the house or in office, is final under the rule 28 of the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007.
The court observed that the charges of ridicule and scandalising the judiciary are covered under Article 204 (2) under which the contempt proceedings were initiated and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was sentenced.
When the court asked Aitzaz how a convicted individual could decide the fate of 180 million people of the country, Attorney General (AG) Irfan Qadir stood up from his seat and asked the court how seven judges of the Supreme Court could decide the fate of the 180 million people.
Giving reference of the parliamentary resolution in favour of the speaker’s ruling, AG Qadir told the court that Justice Nasirul Mulk led a seven-judge bench’s decision to charge the chief executive of the country was in violation of clauses 1 and 2 of the Article 248 of the Constitution. Qadir said that there was no judgment before the speaker to examine the fact whether any question of disqualification has arisen or not except poetry [referring to Justice Asif Saeed Khosa’s additional notes in the detailed verdict]. An irked chief justice told the AG, “I think you are crossing your limit, I am warning you not to say this again.”
But Qadir insisted and reiterated that the Supreme Court’s judge had ridiculed the chief executive, which is a serious offence. AG Qadir will conclude his arguments by 11 am on Tuesday.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.