LAHORE – A full bench of the Lahore High Court on Friday remarked that no one had got absolute immunity in contempt of court law.

The bench led by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial adjourned further hearing until December 19 after petitioner’s counsels concluded their preliminary arguments on maintainability of a contempt petition against President Asif Ali Zardari for not relinquishing political office in view of the LHC’s earlier order.

Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh, Justice Sheikh Najamul Hassan, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah are other members of the bench.

The bench directed federation’s counsel Wasim Sajjad to extend their arguments on next date of hearing.

Starting his arguments when the bench resumed hearing on Friday, petitioner’s counsel AK Dogar stated access to justice was the fundamental right of every citizen and if the court orders were not implemented the said right would be violated.

“Under Article 248(2) of the Constitution, the President had got immunity from criminal proceedings and all cases of criminal nature against him were suspended till the expiry of his term in office or his removal and resignation,” Justice Najamul Hassan remarked and put a query to counsels that why the instant contempt petition against President Zardari should not be deferred till completion of his term?

The judge said criminal trial against a lunatic was consigned to record until he regained his mental health.

Replying to the query, Dogar said contempt of court was a constitutional crime under Article 204 and no one including the President had got immunity.

He requested the court to issue contempt notice to the President under Section 17 of the contempt of court law and added that he had no intention to get President convicted but the implementation of court order is his prime object.

The chief justice remarked that the President and the governors enjoyed constitutional immunity in criminal cases. However, no one got absolute immunity in contempt of court law.

Azhar Siddique, another counsel of petitioner, contended that Article 248 of the Constitution did not have overriding effect over the other articles of the constitution. Therefore, the President could not even claim immunity under clause 2 of Article 248.

“Contempt of court and high treason are only constitutional crimes and both have their independent implications and effects,” the counsel argued.

Justice Najam put another query whether the Constitution had explicitly explained hat there was no hurdle in the way of imitating contempt proceedings against the President.  Advocate Azhar replied that contempt law was of unique kind as it could not be termed as criminal or civil in nature. It is called Sui Generis(of its own kind).