Court: SC rejects NAB’s Chairman plea for exemption from personal appearance in contempt case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a request of National Accountability Bureau’s (NAB) chairman Admiral (r) Fasih Bokhari seeking exemption from personal appearance before the court in the contempt of court case against him.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sh. Azmat Saeed later adjourned the hearing till March 14 due to replacement of Justice Gulzar Ahmed with Justice Khilji Arif Hussain from the bench.
During the hearing, the chief justice noted that he came to know through media that President Asif Ali Zardari had formed a commission to examine and review the anti-judiciary letter of NAB chairman to him (President). “Has the commission been formed to supervise and monitor the Supreme Court”, the chief justice maintained.

Naveed Rasool Mirza, counsel for NAB chairman, told the court that he had no knowledge about any such commission. He however requested the court to exempt his client from personal appearance, which the court rejected.

The other day (Tuesday), the NAB chairman had submitted his reply to the contempt charge against him. In his reply he had praised the chief justice for the role he had played for independence of the judiciary and held the media, and not himself, responsible for committing contempt of court. The reply had stated that the communication between him and President Asif Ali Zardari was privileged.

The NAB chairman is facing contempt charges for writing a strongly-worded letter to the president accusing the superior judiciary of influencing NAB’s investigation into the rental power projects scam.

The court’s registrar office had on Feb 16 returned his application in which he had accused the bench of bias and that he already stood condemned. The office had refused to entertain the application on grounds that it was meant to scandalise the judiciary.

However, the reply submitted on Tuesday recalled that he (Bokhari), after retirement as navy chief, took part in the movement for reinstatement of the chief justice in 2007. It stated that he could not think of and did not intend to commit contempt of court. It was the media which had committed the contempt, it said.

The reply held the Jan 27 letter to the president as a confidential communication/ report made by him as administrative head of NAB on his personal letterhead to his appointing authority and said he owed a statutory responsibility of submitting an annual report to the president. The letter, the NAB chief explained, was meant only for the president, and not for the media, expressing ignorance how the media got hold of it.

The chief justice had recalled that Dr Tahirul Qadri was let off the hook by the Supreme Court because he had committed contempt by accusing the chief justice only and not the entire judiciary, while the NAB chairman had committed contempt of the entire judiciary. He had regretted that footage of the letter was shown by television channels and thus the entire judiciary was maligned.