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Annulment of contempt law: Govt decides to challenge verdict

06 August, 2012

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ISLAMABAD: Contrary to the perception that the Supreme Court verdict against the Contempt of Court Act 2012 would be taken to parliament, the government on Sunday decided to file a review petition against the judgement.

"Yes, we will file a review petition in the court against this decision," President Asif Ali Zardari's spokesman Farhatullah Babar told our sources.

He said the decision had been taken after a meeting of Federal Law and Justice Minister Farooq H Naek with the president to deliberate on the options the government had, following the Supreme Court's decision against the Contempt of Court Act 2012 on Friday.

The ruling alliance also put their heads together on the situation arising after the Supreme Court's judgement on the new contempt law and discussed in detail the various options the government might adopt.

Government's legal brains are busy in drafting the review petition – which has put a question mark on the fate of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf – likely to be filed in the apex court before it resumes hearing of the NRO implementation case scheduled for August 8.

Sources in the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) said that coalition partners of the government were also being taken on board for the review petition against the court's verdict. The sources further said that the review petition might be filed this week, with chances that it would be filed before the NRO implementation case hearing in the court.

They said the government's law experts were preparing new arguments to challenge the August 3 short order issued by a five-judge Supreme Court bench, setting aside the entire law of contempt and resurrecting the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003.

The PPP government lost prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani earlier when he was disqualified under contempt of court charges, according to which he had defied the orders of the court to write a letter to Swiss authorities to reopen cases against the president.

As the PPP government does not seem likely to write the letter to Swiss authorities – as it argues that president's office enjoys immunity – the sword hangs on the prime minister as he was asked by the court to respond on the issue of writing letter to Swiss authorities, in the August 8 hearing in the NRO implementation case.

Earlier, there looked chances that the issue would be taken to parliament when the head of an allied party of the government, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, hinted at referring the matter to parliament.

Country's legal minds also think it a better option to move the court for a review because the government has the option to appeal against a decision if it thinks it is not right.

Referring the matter to parliament could have intensified tension between two important pillars of the state, said sources in the legal fraternity.

Sources say the decision to seek a review of the court's order was taken after the allies advised the president to keep the other options – taking the August 3 order to parliament and the promulgation of an ordinance to protect the prime minister from disqualification – on the hold for a while in order to show restraint against a pro-active judiciary that also enjoyed what they called 'uncalled for' support of the opposition.

End.

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