President enjoys immunity, says LHC CJ

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Hearing a contempt of court petition against the president’s dual offices on Friday, Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial said although the judges could convict anyone for committing contempt of court, the fact remained that the president enjoyed immunity under Article 248(2) of the constitution. The LHC heard the contempt of court petition against President Asif Ali Zardari for not relinquishing political office in the light of a judgment passed by the LHC last year. A five-member bench of LHC headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh, Justice Sheikh Najmul Hassan, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah heard the petition. During the hearing, arguments continued pertaining to the constitutional immunity enjoyed by the president. Moreover, the petitioner’s counsel, AK Dogar, stated that the high courts and the Supreme Court could convict an offender for committing contempt of court. Dogar questioned the concept of presidential immunity and asked what may have happened if the president was to murder someone. Moreover, the petitioner said if the president was not convicted and sentenced for committing contempt of court, the concept of an independent judiciary would cease to exist. Responding to the argument, the bench stated that although the head of state was not answerable to anyone, the president was still bound to respect and follow judicial orders. The LHC chief justice said the country would be peaceful and would prosper when people abided by the constitution. Violating the constitution would adversely affect all sections of national life, he said. Subsequently, the bench adjourned the hearing until December 10 and directed the counsels to continue their arguments on presidential immunity.