ISLAMABAD: Dropping the option of either re-enacting the defunct Contempt of Court Act or promulgating it through a presidential ordinance, a seemingly subdued government on Sunday decided to seek a review of the Supreme Court ruling on the law.
Following intense deliberations, President Asif Ali Zardari approved a plan to file a review petition against the apex court’s August 3 short order which declared the Contempt of Court Act, 2012 null and void.
The government also decided to file a similar petition against another apex court decision of July 12 in which Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was directed to write a letter to the Swiss authorities by August 8 for reopening a dormant graft case against the president.
The next hearing into the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case is due this week.
The president finalised the plan after consulting his political and legal aides over the weekend. The most significant of these interactions to brainstorm how the government should respond to the apex court was a meeting between President Zardari and Law Minister Farooq H Naek.
The weekend was a busy one for the president.
Hours after the court verdict on Friday night, Zardari had an intense round of consultations with leaders of political groups allied to his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government at the centre and in provinces. He also spent a hectic Saturday with key figures of what is known as a core legal team defending the government in several cases in the Supreme Court.
The outcome of these meetings was not shared with media officially, however, insiders said that the decision to file a review petitions in both the cases had been given approval by the president and his legal team was already preparing the draft.
“We are going to file a review petition against both the decisions. We think they are fundamentally flawed and contain many mistakes and there is room for correction,” a member of the government’s legal team told The Express Tribune.
Attorney General Irfan Qadir was even more aggressive in his remarks against the judiciary and its decisions.
“An opportunity can be given to the judiciary through the review petition to rectify the wrong it has done and restore its dignity and honour through its order,” he said while talking to a private television channel.
Asked why the options of re-enacting the same law with minor changes or promulgating it through a presidential order were not implemented, the member of the legal team said: “They are still on the table… But the thing is that we want to go step by step. We want to exploit everything available to us.”
But some other officials of the ruling party said the reason behind shying away from radically defiant options was a hesitant response from allied parties to support the idea of confronting the judiciary openly.
“None of the political associates were forthcoming with their backing for options Zardari sahib put on the table during Friday night’s meeting. That is why he decided to go for a milder plan,” said a federal minister who was briefed about the huddle.
It was still not clear whether the government would wait for the detailed verdict in the contempt case before filing the review.
The legal team’s member, however, said both the applications would be submitted before August 8 when Premier Ashraf is slated to respond to the court’s order of writing the letter to the Swiss authorities.
(Read: SC’s verdict on contempt law)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2012.