‘Same Bench cannot hear PM contempt case’

Aitzaz Ahsan said the hearing of the case by the same bench violates Article 10(a) of the Constitution that provides a right to due process and fair trial.

Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani`s lawyer on Thursday contended in the Supreme Court that
the same bench which had served the premier notice for
contempt could not hear the case against him as it violated
the Constitution.

Aitzaz Ahsan, who was making his arguments in contempt
case against Gilani for failing to act on the apex court`s
orders to revive graft cases against President Asif Ali
Zardari in Switzerland, said the hearing of the case by the
same bench violates Article 10(a) of the Constitution that
provides a right to due process and fair trial.

The seven-member bench led by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk
replied that it did 0not matter if the contempt hearing was
initiated on an application or on a suo motu notice and that
the same set of judges will hear the case.

Ahsan contended that irrespective of the issue of lack of
confidence in a judge, the case was important as the matter of
the premier`s disqualification was involved.

He repeated that a judge who had issued the notice for
contempt should not sit in judgement.

"Now Article 10(a) says if a complainant sits as judge,
you cannot get a fair trial," Ahsan said.

He argued that the "harsh language" used by the Supreme
Court in an order issued on January 10 made it seem as though
the judges had already decided to punish the Prime Minister.
After hearing Ahsan`s arguments, the bench adjourned the
case till March 26.

The Supreme Court initiated contempt proceedings against
Gilani after he repeatedly refused to act on the court`s
directives to approach Swiss authorities to revive cases of
alleged money laundering against Zardari.

The judiciary has been pressuring the government on the
issue since late 2009, when it struck down a graft amnesty
that benefited Zardari and over 8,000 others.

The PPP-led government has refused to act, saying the
Constitution gives the President immunity from prosecution in
Pakistan and abroad.

Gilani recently asked the Supreme Court to refer the
matter of presidential immunity to parliament, which alone can
rewrite the Constitution.

Speaking to reporters after emerging from the court,
Ahsan said it is the fundamental right of every citizen to
have a free trial and due process, which is being taken away
from the premier in the contempt case.

"There are so many suo motu cases being heard every day,
and in no case does the bench issuing the notice hear the
case. Some other bench conducts the trial," he said.

Ahsan contended he was not disgracing any judge by saying
that the bench could not hear the case against the premier.

Ahsan reiterated that a judge or an authority who issues
a show-cause notice cannot sit in the bench hearing the same

"An authority that frames the charge-sheet is not
eligible to hear the same case," he explained. He maintained
that as long as Zardari was the President, he would enjoy
immunity across the world.