LAHORE - MIAN DAWOOD - Attorney General of Pakistan Irfan Qadir on Monday levelled allegations of partiality on a full bench of the Lahore High Court hearing a contempt petition against President Asif Ali Zardari and said the bench had already made up its mind to issue a show-cause notice to the head of the state.

The AGP has expressed his distrust on the five-judge full bench though an application moved in the LHC on Monday seeking further permission to advance more arguments on the contempt petition. A full bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial will resume hearing today (Tuesday). On previous hearing, the bench had directed Advocate Wasim Sajjad, the federation’s counsel, to come up with arguments on the constitutional immunity enjoyed by the president under Article 248 of the constitution.

The AGP in his application said: “In view of his absence on January 14, the LHC chief justice had remarked the AGP had concluded his arguments while the order sheet of December 19, 2012 reflected the contrary situation. Consequently, the chief justice dictated an order according to which the case was adjourned until January 22 (today) for arguments of Wasim Sajjad on the question of legal effect of Article 248(2) of the constitution.”

Irfan Qadir said his absence from the high court proceedings was neither deliberate nor intentional but the same was owing to circumstances beyond control.

The AGP also annexed the order sheets of three cases of apex court in which he had appeared. He added he was busy at apex court proceedings due to which he could not appear before the high court full bench. Therefore, he should be granted an opportunity of hearing as per the constitution.

“Throughout the proceedings, the appearance of predisposition on the part of the chief justice as well as the other judges on the bench may not be alluded to this stage but it is not easy to rule out the same. Even on the last date of hearing, the chief justice desired to prevent or dissuade him from raising objections as to the maintainability of the contempt application,” the AGP said in his application.

“The reason advanced by the chief justice was that since Wasim Sajjad had already argued the question of maintainability, therefore, the AGP should argue on the legal effect of Article 248(2) of the constitution. The adoption of such a course is tantamount not only to denial of right of audience to the AGP but also to negate the principle of audi alteram partem (condemning unheard),” the AGP added.

Irfan Qadir said the appearance of at least remote bias on account of unequal treatment was also reflected from the order passed by the full bench on December 20, 2012 because the LHC’s other benches adjourned scores of cases on the same day without casting similar aspersions on any lawyer for not appearing before courts in view of the strike called by the Pakistan Bar Council.

In his application, the AGP requested the court that before any further proceedings in the matter, it was necessary for the full bench to hear his arguments on maintainability of the petition. He further said under Article 100 of the constitution the courts were bound to hear the attorney general.

Munir Ahmad had filed the contempt petition questioning holding of political office and political activities of the president in violation of a LHC order issued on May 12, 2011. Advocates AK Dogar and Azhar Siddique are the petitioner’s counsel.

He prayed the president should be issued a show cause notice and punished for the contempt of court under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 read with Article 204 of the constitution.