ISLAMABAD - Turning down the objections raised by NAB chief on bench composition, the Supreme Court on Wednesday decided to frame contempt charges against him on April 2.

A three-member bench heard the matter of an interfering letter written by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman Admiral (r) Fasih Bokhari to President Asif Zardari.

Bokhari wrote the letter days after the Supreme Court ordered arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and 15 other accused in the rental power projects (RPPs) case, alleging the court of unnecessarily pressing the bureau in some high profile cases including the RPP scam.

NAB chief’s counsel Naveed Rasool Mirza repeatedly asked the bench head, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, to recuse from the bench or transfer the case to some other bench of the apex court.

But the CJ rejected his objections saying, “We are of the opinion that the objections raised by the petitioner’s counsel have no substance.” He said the judges are under oath to decide the cases in accordance with law and without any fear or prejudice.

The bench noted that in the letter contempt was committed not only against a particular judge but an attempt had also been made to involve the whole institution. Hence, the NAB chairman had committed both criminal and judicial contempt.

Justice Azmat Saeed pointed out to the counsel that the NAB chairman had used the word of ‘Supreme Court’ 10 times in the letter. “If the Supreme Court would not hear this case, should it be heard by apex court of Delhi or Kabul?” he raised the question.

Lawyer Naveed Mirza argued that in view of Section 11 read with Section 2 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 ‘this bench’ should not hear the case and it should be transferred to some other bench as his client felt that the bench was predisposed and the chief justice did not have favourable disposition towards him.

The counsel argued that the chief justice had separated himself from the bench in the Arsalan Iftikhar case. Upon that the CJ remarked that the two cases have no similarity. He again asked the chief justice to recuse from the bench because his client believed that in Dr Arsalan Iftikhar case he (chairman) was criticised unnecessarily.

Justice Chaudhry said: “I have put my son in the dock... Don’t malign the institution (SC) as was done in the past and we all should learn lesson from the past.” Justice Gulzar Ahmed said that by releasing the contents of the letter to the media Mr Bokhari has himself made a case for contempt. He also pointed out that the chairman has not denied the contents of the letter.

The court said that the chief justice is supposed to sit in all the high profile cases. The CJ said on the basis of letter of Fasih Bokhari a two-member bench was constituted though subsequently its notification was withdrawn.

He said the incumbent and the former prime ministers had the confidence in the Supreme Court and therefore they appeared in person before the court.

Law Ministry Joint Secretary Sohail Qadeer Siddiqui stated that the commission to probe the contents of NAB chairman’s letter was constituted in pursuance of a letter received from President’s Secretariat. He placed on record the letter for ‘eye only’.

After examining the letter, the bench said that prima facie the secretary’s stance was incorrect. The court directed him to submit the document in SC office and directed the office to keep it in a sealed envelope. The bench directed the secretary to remain in attendance of the hearings and adjourned the case until April 2.