ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday issued a contempt of court notice to former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf for trying to influence the apex court proceedings in Rental Power Project scam.

Ashraf in the capacity of the PM had dispatched a letter to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, requesting for formation of an independent commission to probe RPPs scam, in which he was the principal accused. Giving a verdict in the Rental Power Projects, the court ordered the NAB to initiate criminal proceedings against Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and other government officials.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry asked the former PM to explain why he should not be prosecuted for trying to influence and interfere with the court proceedings.

The bench comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed directed Ashraf to either appear in person or send a lawyer in the court and adjourned the hearing for two weeks.

Wasim Sajjad, counsel for Ashraf, said the letter was not written to influence the court.

Though the court hinted that it may initiate proceedings against the former premier, if the letter would not be withdrawn, the counsel for defence did not withdraw it. He said: “Why undue sensitivity was raised in the case. If the bench was not satisfied with the request of the former PM, it should reject the plea.”

The chief justice remarked: “Letter written by the PM on his official letter pad with the signatures of his personal secretary and addressed to the CJP is not a request rather an attempt to influence the proceedings in RPP scam.”

The bench noted in its order: “If accepted the demand of the former PM, it will result in a historic precedent, encouraging other high officials to write directly to the CJP for getting relief.”

The court said the former PM should have appeared in the court or filed a petition to seek appointment of an independent commission of inquiry.

The chief justice noted in the order that Raja Pervaiz had exhausted all remedies such as first filing review petition against the March 2012 order of the SC, directing NAB to look into the matter and bring the culprits to book.

“Later he withdrew his review petition in February 2013 and preferred to face the investigations and then in the capacity of the PM, he wrote a letter to the CJP for making a commission headed by Dr Sohaib Suddle to bring out the facts of the RPP scam.”

Wasim Sajjad said that it was a simple request for a commission as the SC had already made such commission.

The request was made after the office of the PM was being criticised for allegedly influencing NAB investigations especially after the death of Kamran Faisal. NAB Prosecutor General K K Agha said that NAB had no objection over the appointment of any commission, if SC orders it.

 However, NAB had already been undertaking the investigations and had submitted two interim reports in the apex court, he added.

The CJP observed that the letter was made public through media before it reached to the office of SC registrar that implied that the PM was trying to influence the court.