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SC wants president to reframe ZAB reference

19 April, 2011

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday suggested to former federal law minister Dr Babar Awan, appearing as counsel for the federation in the presidential reference filed for revisiting the death sentence to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to further consider relevancy of questions of law raised by the president on which it (court) might express its opinion.

During the proceedings, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who was heading a three-judge bench hearing preliminary arguments of Babar Awan regarding the maintainability of the reference, once again told the federation’s counsel that the court wanted clarity about certain aspects of the reference. He pointed out that there were some lacunas in the reference which needed to be removed.

Justice Chaudhry said that a lager bench might be constituted along with a number of amicus curiae to assist it over the issue, and proposed that if the president could reframe the reference and transmit them on Tuesday (today) over specific question of law.

The president and the prime minister did not know the technicalities but they had wisdom with them, said the CJP, adding that they would adjourn all other cases to hear such an important issue.

“Unfortunately, formulations framed grounds without question of law,” Justice Chaudhry remarked and said, “The cabinet is for revisiting of the murder trial and I do not know whether my brothers agree or not but I agreed that it could be a case of miscarriage of justice. The worthy president of Pakistan is before the Supreme Court for rectifying it and acquittal.”

Earlier, Babar presented his formulations before the bench. The CJP said to him that “you have no authority to formulate questions at this point, as the judges are bound to give advice on the questions referred to them by the president”. The counsel said that the whole reference was a question of law, adding that he would not hide behind technicalities or ego, as everybody knew that a letter about murder was sent to the apex court.

He also touched preliminary points by referring to a book “Leopards and Fox” of Tariq Ali, and said that the author had stated that it was not a case of execution but of custodial killing of a prime minister. He contended that there was no case in entire judiciary when a person was hanged on the basis of Article 109.

Babar said the reference was in accordance with procedural requirements under Rules of Business and the question raised by the president was before the cabinet and the prime minister. The counsel further said a question arose out of Bhutto’s trial case whether it met provisions of fundamental rights of Articles 4, 9 and 14. “The case was a miscarriage of justice and a glaring example of bias against Bhutto,” he added.

He said that law of repentance would also be applicable in this case as laid down in the Islamic injunctions. He said that “this court in its judgements of PLD 2001 and 2009 by a seven members bench and a five-member bench respectively dealt with the issue of bias”.

Justice Chaudhry told him that they were bound by judgements and also by the Islamic injunctions. A former judge had expressed his mind by saying about ZAB that he was there for publicity, he added. He said that they would also ascertain whether an inquiry report prepared by Justice (r) Shafiur Rehman about the issue was made public or not.

The CJP said if he wanted an opinion over bias issue, they were ready to give it as they had decided it in their judicial verdicts. Before winding up the proceedings, the bench asked Babar to look into questions posed by it regarding relevancy of presidential question of law over which, probably, a larger bench might give its opinion under Article 186 of the constitution. The court adjourned the hearing until 21st.


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