Pak govt asked to respond to petitions against contempt law

Pak govt asked to respond to petitions against contempt law

Pakistan Supreme Court has asked the government to respond by July 23 to several petitions challenging a new law aimed at shielding top leaders from contempt charges and preventing possible disqualification of new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

A 3-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry admitted a petition filed by Baz Muhammad Kakar during a hearing at the apex court's registry in Quetta yesterday.

Chaudhry is currently in Quetta to hear a case related to people detained without charge by security agencies.

The bench issued notices to the Attorney General and the government to file their responses to the petition against the new Contempt of Court Act of 2012.

It also ordered that all petitions filed against the new law should be combined and adjourned the matter till July 23.

President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday gave his assent to the Contempt of Court Bill of 2012 after it was passed by the two houses of Parliament. The law is intended to save Ashraf from possible disqualification by the apex court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against Zardari in Switzerland.

The apex court has given the Premier time till July 25 to ask Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against Zardari.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Chaudhry had disqualified former Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on June 19 following his conviction for contempt in April for refusing to reopen the cases against Zardari.

The new law provides blanket immunity to top government functionaries, including the President, Prime Minister, federal ministers and provincial Chief Ministers and Governors, for executive actions.
Petitioner Kakar contended that the law was in conflict with basic clauses of the Constitution. "Article 2A guarantees freedom of the judiciary while according to Article 25, all citizens have equal rights," he said.

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