Islamabad, June 20 (PTI): Two verdicts by the Indian Supreme Court were cited by Pakistan’s apex court when it disqualified Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani following his conviction in a contempt case.
The four-page short order issued yesterday by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry referred to a total of eight judicial verdicts, including six by Pakistani courts and two by the Indian judiciary.
The references, included in the second paragraph of the order, mentioned the cases of Jagjit Singh vs State of Haryana (AIR 2007 SC 590) and Rajendra Singh Rana vs Swami Prasad Maurya (AIR 2007 SC 1305) without giving details.
The order said these eight judicial verdicts showed that the Supreme Court, while exercising the power of judicial review, could examine rulings given by the Speaker of the National Assembly or the lower house of parliament.
The apex court yesterday disqualified Gilani in response to several petitions that had challenged National Assembly Speaker Fehmida Mirza’s decision not to disqualify the Prime Minister following his conviction.
The court ruled that the post of Premier had been vacant since April 26, when another seven-judge bench had convicted Gilani of contempt for refusing to re-open graft cases in Switzerland against President Asif Ali Zardari.
The Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify the Prime Minister has pitted state institutions against each other at a time when the country is grappling with several challenges and raised questions about a “judicial coup” overseen by the top judge, the Pakistani media said today.
Sections of the media questioned the apex court’s ruling. Some commentators asking why the judiciary had acted almost two months after the Prime Minister was convicted of contempt.
In an editorial titled, “A judicial coup?”, The Express Tribune questioned the timing and the reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s decision. The daily said, “The view, that with this verdict, the apex court has played the role of judiciary, legislature and executive, may find some takers.”
The Tribune cautioned that there would be people, and “not entirely from within the (ruling Pakistan People’s Party), who may consider whether yesterday’s verdict is, in effect, a judicial coup.”
Some commentators noted that the Supreme Court had acted days after real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain, known for his ties with political parties and the military, had acknowledged that he paid over Rs 342 million to the chief justice’s son Arsalan Iftikhar to influence cases in the apex court. These commentators contended the apex court was trying to divert attention from the allegations against the judge’s son.
The Dawn, in an editorial titled “PM’s disqualification”, said the Supreme Court had taken “an extraordinary — and unfortunate — step”.
The apex court’s action had “brought the judiciary, parliament and the executive in direct confrontation with each other. Legally there might have been a case against the Prime Minister, but it was best for the supreme judiciary not to have waded so deep into such obviously political waters”, the editorial cautioned.
The apex court could have declared the Speaker’s decision not to disqualify the Premier unacceptable and referred the matter to the Election Commission, it said.
New PM on Friday
A special session of Pakistan parliament will be convened on Friday to elect the Prime Minister.
Pakistan People’s Party leader Khursheed Shah, who was religious affairs minister in Gilani’s cabinet, told reporters that a session of the National Assembly would be convened at 5.30pm on Friday.
PPP insiders said senior party leader Makhdoom Shahabuddin has emerged as a frontrunner in the race.
Others who are being considered for the post include former defence minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar, former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar and PPP leader Samina Ghurki.