ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Friday dropped a strong hint of its intentions during proceedings of petitions challenging the recent amendments to the new contempt of court law, with Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry saying the democratic “system would not be threatened if one law is struck down”. The five-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and including Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, resumed hearing in 27 identical petitions challenging the contempt law. Lawyers representing the petitioners in the case continued their arguments against the new enactment. During the proceedings, chief justice observed that it was the job of judges to give a verdict under the law, adding that the judiciary was trying to bring democracy back on track. Commenting on the conduct of parliamentarians, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja observed that the servants of the public forgot their true place and started considering themselves “owners of the country”. He said parliamentarians were paid by the masses and they should not consider themselves “masters”.
“Parliament members are merely servants of the people and nothing more. They even get paid by the public,” said Justice Khawaja. He said everyone was collectively striving to maintain a democratic system in the country.
Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani said Article 204 provided immunity to no one, adding that the contempt of court bill was a violation of the constitution.
Justice Jawwad S Khawaja said the constitution allowed launching an inquiry against those committing contempt of court, so how could a law regarding contempt of court provide immunity. He added that Article 25 was affected the most by the new contempt of court law.
Referring to the transcript of the parliamentary debate that took place while passing the bill, the chief justice said they had concerns over the debate, as references from the constitution were not given by lawmakers. He added that parliamentarians had themselves said that the law was made to provide protection to only a few people. During his arguments, one of the petitioners, Raja Afrasiyab, contended that the law was enacted to protect prime minister from Article 63-A. He argued that parliament could not alter the constitutional definition of contempt of court on the basis of mere majority. The constitution had already described the subject matter very clearly. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja praised the vision of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and remarked that those who formulated the constitution were respectable personalities. He further said that the people who produced the unanimous constitution were the people with a vision, but the dictators distorted it, however, the constitution was still of primary importance.
“The judges are trustees who have been tasked by 180 million people of Pakistan with implementing the constitution. The lawmakers agreed upon the constitution under an ideology, these people who gave unanimous constitution were ideologues,” he said. On Thursday, the court had directed the lawyers of petitioners to complete their arguments by Friday. The arguments of Attorney General Irfan Qadir would be heard from Monday.