Government to file review petition against contempt law verdict

Contempt of Court Act 2012

ISLAMABAD:  The government decided on Sunday to file a review petition against the Supreme Court’s order of August 3, in which it struck down the Contempt of Court Act (COCA) 2012, after the intense consultations with the legal experts.

The contempt of court law, which recently was passed by the parliament, exempted the “holders of public office” from the mischief of contempt in “exercise of powers and performance of functions” and allowed for suspension of a sentence during the pendency of an appeal.The Supreme Court, in its verdict against COCA on August 3, said the new law was contrary to the provisions of several articles of the constitution. The verdict states: “While enacting COCA 2012, attempt has been made to reduce the powers of the Court as has been indicated in different provisions.” It said that “no immunity can be granted to the public office holders in violation of Article 25 of the Constitution.”

The decision to file a petition seeking review of the SC’s verdict to declare the contempt of court law null and void was taken in a meeting here between President Asif Ali Zardari and Law Minister Farooq H Naek.The law minister gave a detailed briefing to the president on the option of review petition saying it was the best the government could do in such circumstances, said the sources privy to top level consultations.“Naek told the president that the other legal aides of government as well as some constitutional experts were of the view that the government should file a review petition in the Supreme Court against its decision of striking down the contempt of court law.

Naek told the president that he too was of the same opinion,” said a source seeking anonymity. The decision of filing a review petition has apparently been made to save Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf from the possible disqualification by the apex court. The prime minister faces the deadline of August 8 given by the apex court for reopening of graft cases against President Zardari through a letter to be sent to the Swiss authorities. The SC disqualified the former Prime Minister Yuosuf Raza Gilani for his failure to write the same letter and many legal experts believe that now that the new contempt of court law has been struck down by the apex court, Prime Minister Ashraf is likely to meet the same fate.

The SC’s decision to strike down the new Contempt of Court Act 2012 has also led to the resurrection of the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003, the old law that was instrumental in the ouster of Yousaf Raza Gilani from his office. According to sources, the government is also mulling to move the SC with another review petition against the July 12 order of apex court in which Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was directed to follow the judgment on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) decision implementation case. Both review petitions are likely to be filed before August 8 when the PM is supposed to apprise the SC whether he has implemented NRO verdict or not. – PT