ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday resumed the hearing of petitions against the recently passed contempt of court law.
A five-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and including Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Jawad S Khawaja and Justice Tassadduq Hussain Jilani, was hearing 27 identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act, 2012, a private TV channel reported.
During the hearing, Attorney General Irfan Qadir said that four of the judges on the bench were prejudiced.
Upon which, Justice Khawaja inquired why the attorney general had not objected to the constitution of the bench earlier as it had been hearing the petitions for the past 10 days.
The attorney general responded that he had tried speaking up but was told to remain quiet by the judges on the bench.
The court directed Qadir to name the judges as well as his reasons for calling them prejudiced in writing.
Addressing Qadir, Justice Khawaja and Chief Justice Iftikhar said: “This is not the first time you have raised objections over the constitution of a bench.”
Prior to this also, you have raised objections to the constitution of benches in different cases, the chief justice said, adding that if the attorney general had brought the matter up earlier, 10 days of hearings would not have gone to waste.
Chief Justice Iftikhar moreover said that the attorney general was making an accusation that he could not prove, adding that, Qadir should not try to defame the judges.
The chief justice said the attorney general was not simply a counsel for the federal government and that providing assistance to the court was among his duties.
Chief Justice Iftikhar told the attorney general that he had appeared before the bench on a court notice which did not authorise him to act as someone’s counsel or as a party in the case.
The attorney general reiterated that the bench was appearing to be prejudiced in the case, adding that, the new contempt of court law did not infringe upon the independence of the judiciary.
Qadir moreover said that the court should also summon those who would be affected in case the new law was struck down.
Upon which, the chief justice said that court does not issue notices to everyone in case a law is to be either maintained or struck down.
Justice Khawaja told the attorney general to respect the sanctity of his office.