ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court had a word of advice for the parties involved in the Panamagate case on Monday: keep your comments to yourselves and allow the court to proceed.
“Enough barbs have been traded on the roads by the parties and now they should keep their commentaries to themselves, [and] the court should be allowed to proceed, while they should wait for the outcome,” observed Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who is heading a five-judge Supreme Court bench hearing the Panama Papers leaks case.
The observation came when Advocate Taufiq Asif, who represents Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Sirajul Haq, regretted before the court that an entire battery of government ministers came to the court on a daily basis to defend the prime minister and his children.
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This is being done despite the fact that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his speech to the National Assembly on May 16, 2016, had volunteered himself for a thorough probe by waiving all privileges and immunity that he enjoys under the law. The counsel also sought a complete gag order against statements to the media, which the court ignored.
JI counsel asked to specify what documents court should summon from prime minister and his family in the Panamagate case
“They want to get a clean chit from the institutions concerned,” deplored Advocate Asif, adding that defending the family business was a private affair, for which the floor of the house should not have been used, and that too on a matter that was not on the agenda of the National Assembly for that day.
Therefore, protection and privilege under Article 66 of the Constitution was not available to the prime minister in this case, the counsel argued, citing the ordeal being faced by supermodel Ayyan Ali or actress Atiqa Odho, who were forced to run pillar to post to seek justice, while the prime minister was hiding behind technicalities or privilege.
On Monday, PTI chief Imran Khan came to the court a bit late, almost halfway through, and left Courtroom No 2 before the conclusion of the day’s proceedings, with PTI leaders and legal team in tow.
When the counsel asked the court to summon the transcript of the prime minister’s speech made on the floor of the house, along with other documents he submitted before the assembly, Justice Khosa asked why the court should go to the trouble of calling all these documents when they had not been disputed by the petitioners and the respondents.
Besides, what effect would the calling of the document have on the fate of this case, the judge asked, adding that the counsel should tell the court what facts the prime minister had suppressed or concealed from parliament so that the record could be summoned. But the lawyer did not specify which documents should be called.
At this, Justice Khosa observed that the counsel wanted to summon documents that the respondents had not even hinted at.
But Advocate Asif stated that the prime minister had used the forum of the assembly to offer an explanation for himself and his children, which had nothing to do with public interest. Therefore, the prime minister had violated his oath of office.
“When the matter came to the court, they had engaged separate lawyers to hide behind technicalities and privilege; but in the assembly he had defended his entire family,” the counsel regretted.
“If this is not a matter of public importance, then why did the petitioners come to the court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution?” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed asked, quizzing the counsel on how it was the responsibility of the respondents or defendants to prove the allegations in a petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, which was inquisitorial in nature.
“Facts are needed to establish that the prime minister violated his oath, and since nothing came from the petitioner’s side, there was understandably no answer from the other side also,” Justice Saeed said.
The business interests of the children, as well as that of the prime minister, are linked with each other, the counsel said, citing a number of judgements to substantiate his point.
But the court observed that whatever case law he was quoting had a different background and had nothing in common with the case at hand.
“Is the court supposed to do a roving inquiry to fish for evidence under a petition on Article 184(3) of the Constitution?” Justice Ejaz Afzal observed, asking whether it for the court to assume the role of an investigator. The judge repeatedly suggested the counsel adopt the arguments earlier advanced by PTI’s Naeem Bokhari, or fill the gaps left by them.
“Whatever record the parties wanted to provide has come before us and if something has been concealed, consequences will follow,” Justice Gulzar Ahmed said, asking the counsel to inform the court what the prime minister had inherited after the death of his father, Mian Sharif, in 2004.
Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan also asked the counsel to convince the court by establishing a connection between the prime minister and the family business, because the defence had argued that the prime minister had nothing to do with that business.
But Advocate Asif kept arguing that the entire business was that of the prime minister, adding that under Article 19A of the Constitution, the nation deserved the right to learn the complete truth.
At the end of Monday’s proceedings, Justice Khosa said that the court was conscious about its authority to do whatever needed to be done in the interests of justice.
On a query, senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan told the court that he would inform the court on Tuesday whether he would also respond to the JI petition. He said he needed more time since he could not establish contact with his client, the prime minister.
Courtesy : Dawn News