ISLAMABAD Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry Thursday remarked that the court was going to test the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) on the touchstone of the Constitution and it had nothing to do with the issue as to who benefited from the Ordinance in the case at hand. The Chief Justice made these remarks while heading the largest bench constituted in history to hear three identical petitions filed by Dr. Mubashar Hassan, Roedad Khan and Qazi Hussain Ahmad challenging the NRO. The Chief Justice said that the court had summoned lists of the persons benefiting from the NRO only to provide basis for the case. He repeatedly asked the lawyers to confine their arguments to the question pertaining to the constitutionality of the NRO. At an occasion in the proceedings of the case, the Chief Justice also appreciated the Government for its written statement that it never accepted the 17th amendment and that it believed in the 1973 Constitution and would not defend the NRO in the court. On Thursday, Dr Mubashir Hassans counsel Abdul Hafeez Pirzada Advocate, Qazi Hussain Ahmads counsel Dr Farooq Hassan and Roedad Khans counsel Ikram Chaudhry Advocate completed their arguments. Abdul Hafeez Pirzada submitted that once an ordinance is expired, no institution other than the Parliament could extend its lifespan. Dr Mubashir Hassan said that after failure of the executive and legislature of a state, the judiciary has to come forward to rescue the state. Ikram Chaudhry Advocate said that the NRO was promulgated with the purpose to benefit a specific group in violation of the basic human rights guaranteed in the Constitution. He submitted that the Ordinance was promulgated a day ahead of the session of the Parliament so that former President Musharraf could win the presidential elections. Otherwise, there was no such immediacy to issue the NRO, he said. He further said that legislation never used to be person or group specific, but the public at large should benefit from a law. It was not National Reconciliation Ordinance but it was the outcome of reconciliation between two parties, he argued. Ibrahim Satti, counsel for a convicted former official of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was the only lawyer who supported the NRO. He said that if only one person was granted benefit under the Ordinance, then the benefit would also extend to all other convicts. He claimed that the Ordinance was not contradictory to human rights or the Constitution. Satti said that he was defending the NRO because the court was going to give a single-sided verdict in the case, to which Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday observed that the court had not chosen to do so but no one had come forward to defend it. He said that the Federation and provinces too had decided not to defend the Ordinance. Satti further argued that the Supreme Court during its October 12, 2007 hearing of the NRO case had not invalidated the Ordinance. Even the Parliament during the four months lifespan of the NRO had not passed any resolution against it. Therefore, it was a valid law and benefit granted under it was of permanent nature, he said. The Chief Justice, however, said that the court could not give verdict after a single hearing without listening to the Attorney General and other parties. Acting Attorney General Shah Khawar, too, stood and stated that the Government never accepted NRO from the first day till date. The Chief Justice further said that no one ever recognized the NRO as a valid law, saying the Parliament withdrew the Bill to this effect even after it was presented in the House. The Chief Justice also directed Chairman NAB to appear before the court during the next hearing of the case and provide details of the US $ 60 million regarding which NAB had withdrawn cases from the Swiss court.