ISLAMABAD - TERENCE J SIGAMONY - Proceedings to frame charges against Babar Awan were adjourned for another week on Monday over uttering contemptuous remarks against judiciary during a news conference at the Press Information Department (PID) along with other Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders on December 1 last year.

A three-member bench, headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal and Justice Athar Saeed, was informed by Deputy Attorney General Tariq Jahangiri that Attorney General Maulvi Anwar-ul-Haq was not available, as he was in Quetta where Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was hearing the matter of law and situation in Balochistan.

Justice Jamali said the absence of attorney general did not matter as the charges could be framed. However, Ali Zafar, the counsel for Babar Awan, while referring to the Rule 7 of the Supreme Court Rules argued the presence of the attorney general was must at the time of framing charges. The bench on that adjourned the hearing till April 10.

Talking to media, Ali Zafar said his client had not passed any remarks, which ridiculed the judiciary, adding that freedom of speech could not be curbed in the name of the freedom of judiciary.

The former minister has only expressed regret and did not tendered apology for criticising the judiciary and the apex court judge. The court thinks that Babar Awan was a popular lawyer as well as politician; therefore he should have respect the judiciary. Ali Zafar said according to the Section 7 of Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003, anyone guilty of contempt could seek unconditional apology anytime.

In the last hearing, Babar Awan had prayed the court in person to delay the hearing, saying his counsel was going to India with the Supreme Court Bar Association delegation.

“I do not object at the indictment, if it is done today; however, I want it to be in the presence of my lawyer,” he requested the court. The Supreme Court on January 4 had issued a show-cause notice to Babar Awan for holding a press conference at PID and allegedly using contemptuous remarks against the judiciary after its December 1, 2011 order in the memogate case. Babar Awan along with Syed Khursheed Shah, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Farooq Awan had criticised the Supreme Court at a press conference, saying by ordering the probe into the memo issue, it had denied the right of a bipartisan and bicameral parliamentary committee on national security to hold an inquiry into the scandal.

 “The government would neither surrender the supremacy of Parliament nor its authority.”

On March 1, the court reserved the verdict over the show-cause notice 2012 after examining the video footage of the press conference, which was shown in the courtroom.