QUETTA - While the government has signed into law the new contempt of court act only the other day, the SC took the matters to new heights by issuing notices to the federation and the Attorney General to file their response, while rejecting a plea for stay against the newly implemented Contempt of Court Act 2012, during a hearing on a petition filed against the newly legislated law.
A three-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and comprising of Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain heard the petition filed by Baz Muhammad Kakar. The petitioners challenged the changes made to the Contempt of Court Act. The petitioners were being represented by prominent lawyers Athar Minallah and Hadi Shakeel advocate. The petitioner, during his arguments, said that the bill was in conflict with basic clauses of the constitution. “Article 2A guarantees freedom of the judiciary while according to Article 25, all citizens have equal rights,” he added. Athar Minallah in his arguments before the bench said that the purpose of law of contempt of court was to seek justice and it could only be possible through an independent judiciary. He said that the newly amended law was in contradiction with the constitution and was legislated to benefit few individuals. He said that the newly amended law was not only a hurdle in the way of dispensing justice but also against the independence of judiciary, praying for the law to be declared null and void.
The chief justice remarked that the ‘people’ who were responsible to run the country must be able to protect its constitution also. Renowned legal expert, Athar Minallah, during his arguments, said that according to the Article 190 of the Constitution, the executive was bound to act under the constitution. The Chief Justice in his remarks said that if the people were not made answerable for not implementing the court orders, then the courts would pass their judgments in the morning while panelists would criticise the court in their TV talk shows for not getting their judgments implemented. The court said in its orders that since important questions have been raised in the petition regarding the independence of judiciary, it was necessary to review them. However, the court rejected the plea for granting a stay against the newly amended law and said that all the identical petitions should be put before the court for next hearing on July 23.
PBC challenges the contempt act: It is not just one or two persons who seems to have a bone to pick with the new law, there seems to an unending streak of petitioners who want the law to be nullified.
The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Friday also rejected the changes in the Contempt of Court Act and announced its decision to challenge it in the Supreme Court. The PBC meeting, which was convened at the resolution of five members, termed the Contempt of Court Act 2012 as unconstitutional. It also adopted a resolution condemning the act. The resolution said that the PCB would challenge the new act in the apex court. The PBC also gave a call to observe Black Day on July 23 against the Act. The council has appealed the bar associations of the country to hoist black flags on their offices and observe complete strike on that day. The law has also been challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Lahore Registry. Azhar Siddiq Advocate, the petitioner, bears the stance that the new law is a conspiracy against the judiciary and an act to damage NRO implementation case. He said that the government had tried to make amendment in the constitution by providing relaxation to the president, prime minister and other personalities. He also demanded the trial of all the members of the senate and the parliament who voted in favour of the new law under Article 6 of the Constitution. On Thursday, the legal fraternity across the country observed a strike on the appeal of their respective bar associations to protest the new contempt of court law passed by parliament. Lawyers expressed their solidarity with the chief justice and Supreme Court, many of whom completely boycotted court proceedings in district courts while a partial strike was observed at the Lahore High Court (LHC). It is vital to mention here that President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday signed into law a newly approved bill aimed at providing blanket immunity to all public office holders against contempt of court – a move that will have a direct bearing on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case. Under the new Contempt of Court Act 2012, if an accused or convict of contempt of court files an appeal, the order will remain suspended till the final disposal of the matter.