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Rediff News  All News  » News » Pakistan govt to file plea against contempt law annulment

Pakistan govt to file plea against contempt law annulment

August 06, 2012 13:48 IST

The Pakistan government has decided to file petitions in the Supreme Court seeking a review of the annulment of a new law aimed at preventing the premier's disqualification and another order on reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar confirmed that the government will file a petition seeking a review of the apex court's order that struck down the Contempt of Court Act of 2012.

"We will file a review petition in the court against this decision," he said.

A decision to file the petition was made after Law Minister Farooq H Naek and the President discussed options available to the government at a meeting held on Friday, he said.

Babar said the government will also challenge the apex court's order of July 12 that asked Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf to approach Swiss authorities to revive graft cases against Zardari.

The two petitions will be filed "as soon as possible", he said. The Supreme Court has set August 8 as the deadline for the premier to approach the Swiss authorities.

The government's legal team is drafting the review petitions that are expected to be filed before August 8.

Ashraf became the premier after the apex court convicted his predecessor, Yusuf Raza Gilani, of contempt and disqualified him for refusing to reopen the cases against the President.

The government had pushed the Contempt of Court Act through the two Houses of parliament in July to prevent Ashraf's disqualification in a similar manner but the apex court annulled the law last week, saying it violated the Constitution.

The government has maintained that cases against Zardari cannot be revived as the President enjoys immunity from prosecution in Pakistan and abroad.

The government's legal experts are focussing on new arguments to challenge the apex court's order of August 3 that struck down the contempt law and reinstated the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003.

Sources said the ruling PPP and its allies had discussed the possibility of taking the annulment of the new contempt law back to parliament but had decided against it. Referring the matter to parliament could have intensified the standoff between the government and the judiciary, sources said.

The PPP's allies have reportedly advised Zardari to keep other options like taking the issue of the contempt law back to parliament or the promulgation of an ordinance to protect the premier from disqualification, on hold in order to show restraint against a pro-active judiciary.

Sources said the government had also been influenced by its earlier lapse of not having filed a review petition against the apex court's order that convicted Gilani of contempt.

Legal experts are sceptical about the review petitions helping the government buy time in its standoff with the judiciary.

"As long as the Supreme Court doesn't issue a stay order against its August 3 decision (annulling the new contempt law), the decision will remain in effect. Admissibility of a review petition does not automatically disqualify the original decision that remains in place till the time the court decides otherwise," leading lawyer Salman Akram Raja told the media.

Sources in the PPP told PTI that the party was even prepared for the possibility of premier Ashraf being disqualified like his predecessor.

"If that happens, we will bring in another new prime minister," said a PPP leader who did not want to be named.

Rezaul H Laskar
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