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Courts not here to disqualify anyone: LHC

13 December, 2012

LAHORE: Hearing contempt petition against President Asif Zardari, a full bench of the Lahore High Court on Wednesday remarked that the courts are not here to convict or disqualify anyone but only to enforce judgements.

The bench heard the arguments of the petitioner's counsel and directed him to come up on Thursday (today) to assist in constitutional concepts of civil and criminal proceedings and also refer some case of civil nature wherein punishment had been awarded to a defendant.

The bench also accepted a request made by an additional attorney general to allow federation's counsel to also argue on the issue of immunity after the arguments from petitioner side.

On Wednesday, the petitioners counsel advanced arguments that the immunity available to the president under Article 248(2) of the constitution was not a hurdle in way of contempt proceedings. It was also asserted that the contempt proceedings, if initiated against the president, would be of civil nature.

Petitioners' counsel AK Dogar said that under this constitutional provision the court could punish any person, including the president for wilfully disobeying a judgement of the court. He said the Supreme Court in case against Contempt of Court Law 2012 had already declared that Article 248(1) did not grant immunity to any public office holder from any criminal proceedings.

He said that Supreme Court earlier had declared this provision in violation of Article 25 of the constitution, which declared all citizens are equal and did not separated Article 248 (2) and it would apply to Article 248 as a whole.

The bench remarked that the government functionaries or public office holders had been granted immunity to protect them from frivolous litigation, otherwise, it will become impossible for them to perform their official responsibilities and there will be a chaos.

He said that the constitutional immunity could not be extended to illegal and unconstitutional acts all public office holders, including President were bound to obey the law and constitution.

The counsel submitted that non-implementation of court's judgments would lead to anarchy. He submitted that the immunity granted to the president and others was also against the Islamic injunctions. He argued that under Article 63 of the Constitution President could be declared disqualified for not obeying the court's orders like it was done in former premier Yousaf Raza Gilani's case.

The bench pointed out that Article 63 pertained to the disqualification of parliamentarians and not the President and how it was applicable to the president.

Dogar said that that under Article 41 the eligibility for the president was equal as for a member of national assembly, therefore, the disqualification process would be the same.

The bench observed that the Constitution had provided procedure of the president's removal under Article 47, which is impeachment, and if people of Pakistan think their President is not obeying the judgments of courts they can demand his impeachment.

The contempt petition was moved by Munir Ahmad through Advocate Azhar Siddique and Advocate AK Dogar against the president for holding political office and political activities in violation of the LHC full bench order.

The bench on September 27 had sought assistance on a constitutional point that how the court could initiate contempt proceedings against President Zardari when he enjoys immunity under Article 248(2) from criminal proceedings. Bench had also directed the petitioner's counsel to define whether the nature of these contempt proceedings was criminal, civil or sui generis (neither criminal nor civil).

End.

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