The counsel for Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif Monday argued before the Supreme Court in Panamagate case that his client enjoys constitutional immunity which bars lawsuits from proceedings against him.
Appearing before a five-member larger bench led by Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa in the matter, the Premier’s counsel said the court has to examine the speech of his client made in the Parliament in view of the provisions of Article 66 of the Constitution, which protect the freedom of speech in the Parliament.
The Article 66 is subject to the Constitution and to the rules of procedure of Parliament, which stipulates that there shall be freedom of speech in the Parliament and no member shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in the Parliament.
Makhdoom Ali Khan said while advancing arguments if it is presumed there are contradictions in his client’s speech in the Parliament in Panama papers issue, even then under the constitutional protection Nawaz Sharif’s statement could not be challenged before the Supreme Court. A member of the bench Justice Ijazul Hassan said that on one hand the counsel for Nawaz Sharif contends that his client didn’t give false statements on the floor of the National Assembly, whereas on the other the attorney is claiming constitutional immunity.
Responding to Justice Asif Saeed Khosa’s remarks if the constitutional immunity can be withdrawn, Makhdoom Ali Khan said it’s the prerogative of the Parliament. A member of the bench Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh observed that the Article 62 is also part of the Constitution, asking if it (Article 62) is not applicable to the Prime Minister in case he gives false statement on the floor of the House. Justice Sheikh also expressed that instead of constitutional immunity, the matter seems to be related to exemption or exception of Nawaz Sharif from proceedings of the court.
Substantiating his arguments for freedom of speech Makhdoom Ali Khan cited a number of court verdicts saying members of the Parliament are not liable to any proceedings in any court over their statements on the floor of the House. Makhdoom Ali Khan categorically said that implementation of Article 62 (1) (f) is different from Article 63 of the Constitution, saying Article 62 is about qualification for member of the Parliament whereas Article 63 is about the disqualification for membership of the Parliament.
The Prime Minister’ counsel further said that his client also enjoys constitutional immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution. He contended that the Supreme Court and High Courts have repeatedly held that courts will not exercise their authority in constitutional jurisdiction to disqualify elected representatives o people.
Khan added that for such reason, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, one of the members of the larger bench hearing the current matter, had allowed former Prime Minister Raja Parvez Ashraf to contest elections in spite of the fact that there were damning findings against him in the rental power plants (RPPs) case.
Khan further pleaded that the apex court had disqualified elected candidates while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution in Yusuf Raza Gillani and the dual nationality cases. He contended that in the Gillani case, the apex court at first had issued directives to the government to write a letter on December 16, 2009 in Dr Mubashir Hassan case, adding that then the court issued a second direction in the matter.
The Premier’s counsel apprised the court while reading apex court orders in Gillani case that on March 30, 2010 the then secretary law was summoned. Khan said that on April 01, 2010, the apex court was informed that National Accountability Bureau had written to Swiss authorities in pursuance of the court’s directives.
He said that several adjournments to accommodate government officials to comply with the order were granted whereas on May 25, 2010 then federal law minister had informed the court that summary had been submitted to Prime Minister Gillani. Citing the apex court’s order in Gillani case, Makhdoom Ali Khan submitted that on January 3, 2012, a five-member larger bench took up the court’s orders implementation matter, subsequently, contempt notices were issued to Prime Minister Gillani on January 10, 2012 and on February 2, 2012 a seven-member bench of the apex court framed charge against Gillani.
Makhdoom Ali Khan further contended that on April 26, 2012 Yusuf Raza Gillani was convicted for contempt till rising of the court, adding that on June 19, 2012 the apex court had issued directives that Gillani was disqualified because he was already convicted and had failed to file an appeal. Makhdoom Ali Khan pleaded that in the dual nationality case, the Supreme Court had disqualified parliamentarians holding dual nationality as they had not denied that fact.
Khan alleged that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan wants Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification because according to him, he is not Sadiq (truthful) and Ameen (trustworthy). Makhdoom Ali Khan argued that Dr Sher Afghan Khan Niazi and Dr Farooq Sattar had filed references against Imran Khan before the Election Commission of Pakistan where Imran Khan took the position that the requirement of being Sadiq and Ameen does not apply on elected members but to candidates who are contesting elections.
Makhdoom Ali Khan pleaded that Imran Khan also did not dispute the correctness of the paternity judgement of the California Supreme Court but contended that it was inadmissible. Makhdoom Ali Khan said in his arguments that Imran Khan, therefore, operated on double standard when the test of Sadiq and Ameen was sought to be applied on him in Election Commission of Pakistan.
Khan reiterated that every word of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speech was true and he didn’t deceive or misrepresent on the floor of the House. “If that privilege was violated, every member of the Parliament would hesitate before saying anything in the Parliament,” Makhdoom Ali Khan submitted.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Sirajul Haq, one of the petitioners in the case, filed a fresh petition in the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution making Federation of Pakistan, Cabinet Division, Speaker National Assembly and Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif as respondents.
Sirajul Haq urged the Supreme Court to disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for not being Sadiq and Ameen and concealing the facts regarding properties outside Pakistan as well as evading taxes. The JI chief also submitted that Prime Minister has lost eligibility as member of National Assembly under Article 62 (1) (f) of the constitution because the information in Panama paper in shape of four flats bearing numbers as 16. 16-A, 17, 17-A Park Lane, Mayfair London was not mentioned by him in his statements and wealth tax, which he had admitted in his speech therefore, he remained no more Sadiq and Ameen. Later, hearing of the matter was adjourned for Tuesday (today).