ISLAMABAD, Feb 4: The Supreme Court hearing the LPG extraction licence case on Monday objected to Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan’s insistence to place the matter before a different bench since he did not want to appear before Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
“It is being made precedence and being misused,” observed the chief justice, while Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed found the application not amusing at all.
A three-judge bench had taken up a challenge by PML-N member of the National Assembly Khawaja Asif against the grant of LPG extraction plant licence to Jamshoro Joint Venture Limited (JJVL) in 2003 in a non-transparent manner.
But the court postponed proceedings for two weeks to provide Barrister Ahsan an opportunity to review his decision.
The court also asked the media not to report an altercation between Khawaja Asif and Barrister Ahsan on the LPG quota issue and observed that the latter was a towering personality and a thorough professional for which he was also respected abroad.
Appearing on behalf of JJVL, Barrister Ahsan insisted that he had been following a salutary principle by not appearing before the chief justice for four years, except on two occasions – to defend him (chief justice) before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) when a reference on misconduct was sent by former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf on March 9, 2007, and to represent the petition of the chief justice against his sacking and launching a countrywide campaign for his reinstatement.
Barrister Ahsan requested the chief justice to fix the matter before another bench, especially when the case had already been heard partly by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.
The court, however, observed that it would have to decide the application if the counsel kept on insisting for the transfer of the case. It reminded Barrister Ahsan that he had appeared before the chief justice to defend former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Then the Supreme Court itself appointed Barrister Ahsan as amicus curiae in a presidential reference concerning the judgment relating to conviction of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
In his application Barrister Ahsan contended that he had been seen by people in several images as quite close to the chief justice between March 2007 and March 2009 touring together at home and abroad.
“The above is recorded only to show that the chief justice would be under some stress, as a human being, to avoid the impression of favouring Barrister Ahsan by deciding the case in favour of his client, even though it may be merited.
“This may cause injustice to occur despite the best intentions of the learned bench to avoid that circumstance,” the application stated.
But the court observed that it decided cases on merit without going under stress.
The application mentioned that Barrister Ahsan had refused several lucrative briefs to appear before the chief justice. Without prejudice to whatever had been stated, it was the constitutional right of any party to the proceedings to engage a counsel of its choice, it added.
“Therefore, it is submitted that it would be in the interest of justice to direct the hearing of this case by any other bench as it would enable him to effectively assist the court, which is also a ‘constitutional right’ of respondent (JJVL),” the application said.
Meanwhile, Khawaja Asif alleged that the LPG extraction contract was awarded to the sole bidder JJVL at the behest of former president Pervez Musharraf in 2003, causing a huge loss to the exchequer.
For the past 30 years, he alleged, the allocation of quotas for LPG was being misused by successive governments only to oblige certain individuals or companies, instead of auctioning the same in a transparent manner.