A Pakistan Supreme Court judge hearing the suspended chief justice's petition challenging the presidential reference against him has said President Pervez Musharraf does not enjoy absolute immunity under the Constitution and is answerable to the court.
"There is no cavil to the fact that the president enjoys no absolute immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution. What the law says is he cannot be made respondent by his name," Justice Khalilur Rehman Ramday hearing the 13-member full bench said on Thursday.
Ramday's observation questioned the basic premise of government lawyer's arguments. The prosecution lawyers opposing the petition argued that acts of the president cannot be challenged in the court He also said that Islam has given importance to justice similar to prayer and philanthropy. "Where there is an issue of justice, it becomes a matter of public importance and in this backdrop the CJP's case is also a matter of public importance".
Arguing for the petition, defence lawyer Hamid Khan said the prime minister should have sought approval from the cabinet before advising the president to file a reference against the CJP.
He said the cabinet had approved the reference 10 days after the president had filed it, in a meeting in Gwadar on March 19.
"The issue is that what should have been done earlier was done subsequently. By doing so the cabinet acknowledged the significance of the matter regarding the removal of a chief justice." Rasheed Rizvi, counsel of the Supreme Court Bar Association, which also supported Chaudhry's petition, said the Supreme Judicial Council was not a Constitutional court but a subsidiary forum.