LAHORE: A five-judge bench of the Lahore High Court on Tuesday said the contempt proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari would be dropped if he sent a written statement by February 6 to stop political activities at the presidency. Headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the bench gave this option through Advocate Waseem Sajjad, counsel for the federation, on a petition seeking contempt proceedings against the president for not quitting the political office and instead carrying out political activities at the presidency in violation of an earlier court order.The matter will now come up for hearing on February 6.In addition to the chief justice, the bench comprises Justices Nasir Saeed Sheikh, Najamul Hassan, Ijazul Ahsan and Mansoor Ali Shah.During the course of proceedings, the CJ remarked that the court was not going to summon the president in person but would ask his counsel to appear.
The court is seized with this matter in the public interest, remarked the chief justice when Mr Sajjad stressed that the matter should be disposed of as the petitioner is not an aggrieved party. The CJ said, “Don’t repeat that he is not an aggrieved”.Prior to this, Mr Sajjad submitted that there are five high courts in the country where no political party, no bar council or any other organisation brought this matter before the court. The petitioner in this case, he alleged, was trying to make the office of the president controversial.
Long ago the LHC had given a deadline to the president to choose between the government and the party office so that the presidency is not used for political activities. When no action was taken on the basis of that order, a contempt of court petition was moved against the president.Wasim Sajjad told the court that efforts are being made to catch the president one way or the other.He said Article 248 of the constitution provides protection to the office of the president. According to subsection 2 of this constitution, he said, “no criminal proceedings whatsoever shall be instituted or continued against the president or a governor in any court during his term of office.”
He said not only the fresh proceedings cannot be initiated against the president during his tenure but also no proceedings already pending against the person prior to holding this office can be continued during his incumbency.A member on the bench pointed out that according to Article 204 (2) of the constitution a court shall have the power to punish any person who obstructs the process of the court in any way or disobeys any court order.Mr Sajjad replied that one article of the constitution does not nullify the other. He said a special article will prevail upon the general article of the constitution.The CJ asked if he meant that application of the law should be postponed till the president is in the office.
He said that contempt does not mean to punish the respondent but to bring this into his notice that he is at fault.On this, Wasim Sajjad said that in the court order in question, the bench itself had observed that no violation is found and instead of passing any “order” had only “expected” that the president would quit political activities. The CJ asked him to give a statement on behalf of the president that no political activities would be continued by him and the bench would drop these proceedings.Wasim Sajjad replied that the court should first decide that the matter does not attract contempt of court proceedings and then he would think about making the desired statement.The CJ remarked that it was because of the dignity of the office of the president that the court kept this case at an initial stage despite the passage of several months. – Nation