All eyes on SC as PM goes to court

PM gilani goes to courtISLAMABAD: All eyes are set on the Supreme Court where Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani will appear in person today (Thursday) in a contempt of court case before a seven-member special bench.

The court had issued a show-cause notice to the PM asking him to explain why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him for not writing a letter to Swiss authorities for reopening corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.A seven-judge special bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk and comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa, Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Muhammad Ather Saeed will hear the case. The prime minister will appear along with his senior counsel Aitzaz Ahsan.

“In the circumstances we have been left with no option but to issue show-cause notice under Section 17 of the Ordinance 5 of 2003 read with Article 204 of the constitution to the prime minister as to why he should not be proceeded against for contempt of the court,” the bench had said in its order while issuing contempt notice to Gilani. If dissatisfied with the PM’s explanation, the court may indict him for committing contempt and initiate a trial. However, the prime minister can continue in the office until the case is decided. Section 19 of the contempt law also provides an intra-court appeal before a larger bench of the court which can even suspend the conviction.

However, the law makes it possible for the contemnor to tender an apology at any stage. Gilani is the second prime minister who will appear before the Supreme Court in a contempt case. Earlier, a similar contempt notice was issued to Nawaz Sharif in 1997 for making a speech against the judiciary in parliament. Although Nawaz had appeared before the court and apologised, the SC refused to accept the gesture and indicted him.

With the split among the judges (10 turning against then chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah and two supporting him), the case had strained the relations between the judiciary and executive to the extent that on November 28, 1997, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz workers forcibly entered and vandalized the court’s premises. Eventually, a case for rowdy acts was registered against them. The standoff between the two organs of the state ended with the departure of chief justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

According to Supreme Court’s security sources, the prime minister would reach Court Room No-IV, commonly known as Bench-IV, through the route used by commoners, as he was appearing before the court as an accused facing contempt charges. He is likely to be accompanied by several ministers.

Ahead of the prime minister’s arrival to the court, strict security measures have been enforced in and around the Supreme Court building.Islamabad Inspector General Police Bani Amin and other security officials, as well as security staff of the Prime Minister House visited Bench-IV of the Supreme Court building twice on Wednesday to secure the passage from the main entry gate of the building to Bench-IV.The seating capacity of Court Room-IV is about 70, but over 150 entry passes have been issued. – PT