If president wants immunity he has to claim it: SC

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On the question of constitutional immunity to President Asif Ali Zardari, the Supreme Court made it clear on Thursday that immunity to anyone did not apply automatically as it ruled in clear terms that in order to benefit from this constitutional provision, the court had to be asked for it.
“In a case wherein a high personality is involved, but claims to have constitutional immunity for submitting replies to the court, there is a legal principle which says that the court has to be asked for it,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry told Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq during the hearing of the memo case. A nine-member larger bench headed by Chaudhry is hearing the petitions.
The chief justice had previously hinted on many occasions that immunity to the president under Article 248 of the constitution was still an undecided issue and anyone seeking it would have to come to the Supreme Court for a judgement.
As the court continued proceedings into the memo case, a hapless Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq told the bench that despite repeated attempts, he could not

contact the competent authority and sought time till Friday (today) to submit the federation’s affidavit.
The court, however, asked him to submit the federation’s affidavit by Thursday evening and the affidavit was finally filed. But President Zardari, who is also a respondent in the memo case, did not submit his reply to the court on the question of constitutional immunity.
To a court query, the attorney general said he was representing the federation, including the Interior Ministry, Law Ministry, Foreign Affairs Ministry and Cabinet Division.
The court also told Haq that he had not yet submitted the stance of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on the assertions made by incumbent ministers in a press conference wherein they had ridiculed the judiciary and criticised the apex court’s December 1 order. The attorney general, however, replied that it would also be submitted on Friday.
TIGHT SECURITY: Meanwhile, the court also asked Asma Jahangir, counsel for former ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani, about his affidavit in response to the stance of the ISI chief, army chief, Mansoor Ijaz and others. She replied that as she had no access to her client for security reasons, she could not file the affidavit on his behalf. “Please give security to my client,” she asked the court.
“This is a very great concern for me that a lawyer of your calibre doesn’t have access to her client,” Justice Jawwad S Khawaja remarked, adding that the court had to reach the truth. “Gone are the days when such a situation was prevailing, it will never happen now and we will not allow this either,” he said.
“Today, everybody trusts this court and by the grace of God, there is rule of law now,” the chief justice said, adding that everything should be on record about what is right and what is wrong.
The chief justice told Asma that if all respondents agreed upon it, the court could constitute a high level judicial commission, headed by a sitting judge of the apex court, to probe the memo issue. “You are the highest court to do justice, therefore, I insist for due process of law,” Asma told the court.
The chief justice, however, reminded Asma that in its order of December 1, 2011, the court had ruled that if the parliamentary committee chose to share its findings with the court, it would be welcomed. He said the issue involved two aspects: civil liability and criminal culpability.
COURT ORDERS AG: Later the court directed the attorney general to call Husain Haqqani to his office and ensure a meeting of Asma Jahangir with him. Haqqani was accordingly brought to the premises of the Supreme Court amid tight security and was taken to the office of the attorney general, where he held a meeting with Asma for about three hours.
Earlier, Rashid A Rizvi, counsel for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz President Nawaz Sharif, argued before the court on the question of maintainability of the petition. He submitted that the doctrine of political grounds does not restrain the court’s jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the constitution.
Later, the court adjourned further hearing for Friday (today).

4 COMMENTS

  1. President has to claim immunity. That is the legal point.
    He can not assume that he can not be prosecuted. That should settle it for now at least.

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