Pak govt asked to respond to petitions against contempt law

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Pakistan
Islamabad, Jul 13: Pakistan's Supreme Court asked the government to respond by Jul 23 to several petitions challenging a new contempt of court law aimed at preventing the disqualification of new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry admitted the petition filed by Baz Muhammad Kakar during a hearing held at the apex court's registry in Quetta city. The Chief Justice 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. The bench also ordered that all petitions filed against the new contempt law should be combined and adjourned the matter till Jul 23.

President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday 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 Prime Minister Ashraf from possible disqualification by the apex court for refusing to reopen corruption cases against Zardari in Switzerland.

The Supreme Court has given the premier time till Jul 25 to ask Swiss authorities to reopen the graft cases against the President. A bench headed by Chief Justice Chaudhry disqualified former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on Jun 19 following his conviction of contempt in Apr for refusing to reopen the cases. 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 Baz Muhammad 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.

PTI

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