ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday rejected former state minister for interior Talal Chaudhry’s apology in a contempt case against him.
A five-judge larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar heard an intra-court appeal filed by Chaudhry.
On August 2, the SC had held Chaudhry in contempt of court for his speech at a PML-N rally in Jarranwala, where he had said: “There was an era when the Kaabah was full of idols. Today, the judiciary, which is the country’s highest institution, is also full of PCO [Provisional Constitution Order] idols.”
He had been sentenced till the rising of the court, which disqualified him from contesting elections for five years, and fined Rs 100,000.
During the hearing on Tuesday, a clip of Chaudhry’s speech was played after which the chief justice asked why the attorney general’s office did not file a request for extension in the PML-N leader’s sentence.
His lawyer Kamran Murtaza then issued an apology and asked the bench to show leniency.
“It is a matter of the child’s political career,” the counsel said.
Justice Nisar then asked, “Is he still a child?” to which Murtaza responded, “In front of you, everyone’s a child.” However, the chief justice questioned, “Do you use such words for your parents.”
Justice Ijazul Ahsan then remarked, “Chaudhry has not issued an apology to date.”
The chief justice then questioned Murtaza, “Who was he calling PCO’s (Provisional Constitution Order) idol? Is he an idol destroyer? Are we doing injustice over here?”
Justice Nisar further said, “We will issue notices to those who were listening to his speech,” adding that “Chaudhry kept addressing former premier Nawaz Sharif in his speech and even he did not stop him from committing contempt of court”.
Expressing anger at the former state minister, Justice Nisar said, “Chaudhry should I bring the Mian Sb who you kept addressing in your speech. Call Mian Sb so he can throw out PCO judges, can he throw us out?”
“Which idol had you talked about throwing out of court?” he further questioned.
Chaudhry stated, “We use the term PCO symbolically,” to which Justice Ahsan said that “you are not ready to issue an apology”.
The chief justice then rejected the PML-N leader’s intra-court appeal and asked his counsel to present his arguments on the basis of merit.
“Chaudhry labelled us infidels, said they are idols and throw them out of court. Can the court be further scandalised?” Justice Nisar continued. Chaudhry’s counsel said, “You always played the role of a bigger person and even accepted Nehal Hashmi’s apology.”
The chief justice then directed the counsel to form a legal argument and questioned, “How will this affect his political career?”
Murtaza responded, “He will not be able to contest in the polls for the next five years.” However, Justice Nisar said, “As a punishment, he should not contest for five years.”
Justice Ijazul Ahsan added, “He made a contemptuous speech in front of a crowd.” Furthermore, the court said that “he insulted an institution not a person and did so with arrogance.”
Earlier, the SC bench had reserved the decision and said the date of the announcement will be issued later. It was further stated that the accused must appear in person on the day of the announcement.
Kamran Murtaza had requested the bench to show restraint in this matter. He also referred to the Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri case wherein contempt proceedings against them were dropped. He also informed the court that the SC registrar had written a note to Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on February 1, 2018, stating that a video clip of his client was contemptuous and was creating hindrances in legal proceedings.
The note had said that ‘contempt proceedings against Chaudhry should be taken up in compliance with Article 204 which deals with contempt of court against a high court or the Supreme Court’, Murtaza had informed the court.
“The note was presented on February 1, and an order was issued on the same day, along with a notice,” he had said. “However, my client had, in fact, said that disrespecting judicial mandate was the biggest contempt,” Murtaza added.
“The court had taken up contempt proceedings on two speeches [delivered by Chaudhry],” the judge had observed, adding that he was unaware of the documents mentioned by the defence counsel. “The documents were sent to the CJP by the registrar through a note,” Murtaza had said, adding that, “following the chief justice’s order, 22 speeches were collected.”
Chaudhry’s legal counsel had further said that the proceedings against his client were taken upon the basis of two speeches that had a three-minute duration each. “The reasons for contempt were not listed in the notice,” he argued.
On March 15, SC indicted Chaudhry for allegedly committing contempt of court. The bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan gave a charge sheet to Chaudhry, who denied the contempt allegations and pleaded not guilty.
On May 23, the country’s top court turned down Talal Chaudhry’s request seeking time to produce more witnesses in hearing of contempt case against him.
During the hearing of a case pertaining to contemptuous statements made by Chaudhry during a rally in January, the defendant’s counsel presented a list of 17 witnesses and sought time to summon and record statements. Turning down the plea, Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed the trial cannot be stretched further.