- Info minister says can never imagine of committing contempt
- Apex court seeks asset details from Swati
- Attorney general says ministers were not satisfied with IGP’s performance
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry’s explanation after the minister was summoned for comments “ridiculing the court” over the transfer of Islamabad Inspector General of Police Jan Muhammad and grilled Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, had summoned the minister over his “irresponsible” statement in the court.
On Thursday, Fawad had declared that the prime minister — the chief executive of the country — had full authority to suspend any police officers who were insubordinate.
The information minister had questioned the point of electing a prime minister if he couldn’t even remove an officer over “legitimate complaints”. He had added that the government would present its arguments to the Supreme Court and follow the latter’s verdict.
However, the chief justice took exception to the information minister’s strident tone.
Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Javed, secretary establishment and interior secretary also appeared before the court over the matter. Furthermore, the family with which Azam Swati had a conflict with was also summoned before the top court.
“The information minister issued an irresponsible statement. Are such statements given? There is a limit to irresponsibility,” CJP Nisar asserted.
“There is no doubt that the prime minister is the chief executive,” the top judge remarked.
CJP Nisar remarked that “he [Fawad] said that the IGP is bound to receive calls [from ministers]. Tomorrow he will say that the chief justice is also bound to receive phone calls”.
“The information minister, who is a lawmaker, issued a statement that if an executive has to run the government then why were the elections held. Which institution was he digging at in his statement?” the top judge remarked.
“The interior secretary was not aware that the prime minister also holds the portfolio of interior minister. Your minister says they will do as they please, we will see how he does this.”
“How can a minister say that an IGP is bound to receive phone calls [of ministers]?” he asked.
“A cow entered Swati’s farmhouse, what was the big deal? Children were arrested and put behind bars and then on TV he stated that he will clarify his position.”
“Those who say that the Supreme Court has no authority should appear before the court,” the CJP remarked.
“Supreme Court had removed a prime minister because of the authority granted to it by the Constitution.”
Fawad Chaudhry’s brother, who was present at the hearing, apologised to the court on behalf of his brother.
“Faisal, call your brother so he can explain why he gave such statements,” directed the top judge.
The bench then went on a break and directed Chaudhry and Swati to appear before the court when the hearing resumed.
As the hearing continued with Chaudhry and Swati present before the bench, the CJP inquired “Why did you issue a sarcastic statement about the court?”
“I cannot even imagine of doing so,” Chaudhry answered.
“Let’s hear from you what you had said. I had heard your statement and let’s play the video clip of your speech in court,” remarked the top judge.
“I highly respect the court. I do not have the guts to say anything about the court,” Chaudhry responded.
“Who issued the statement that if bureaucracy has to play the role then what was the point of elections?” Justice Nisar inquired. To this, information minister answered that “my statement was not directed at the court”.
“Read the article immediately. In front of the court everyone is equal,” remarked the CJP as he held the Constitution book.
“It is not appropriate that the IGPs do not answer phones of ministers nor return calls,” Chaudhry said.
“So what if they are ministers? Are they above the law? What is the competition between a common man and a powerful minister? If you are insisting on your statement then we can look at it in terms of merit,” the judge remarked.
“I am not insisting at all,” answered Chaudhry.
The apex court then accepted Chaudhry’s explanation over the matter.
While speaking to media outside the court, the information minister reiterated that he can “never imagine of committing contempt of court”.
AZAM SWATI’s ASSET DETAILS SOUGHT:
During the hearing, CJP Nisar inquired from Swati if he “will fight the whole case on television?”
“You got the entire family, including women, arrested. Do those people have the same powers as you?” he added.
“I received a bomb threat and was warned that I will be blown up,” Swati answered.
“How much land do you own and have you illegally encroached on the land?” the top judge asked and directed him to submit details of assets he and his family owns. Furthermore, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) was also directed to conduct an investigation into the matter.
“The last time we forgave you because the government was new and we want the system to work. But now we will see where to implement Article 62(1)(f).”
“Through this case we will decide how the country will be run,” CJP Nisar said.
ATTORNEY GENERAL SUBMITS REPORT:
During the course of the hearing, the attorney general also presented a report on the IGP’s transfer.
“The ministers were not satisfied with the IGP’s performance,” the attorney general informed the court. “It was under the Islamabad IGP that crime and drug peddling increased in the capital,” he added.
“The prime minister ordered that a summary for Jan Muhammad’s transfer be prepared,” the attorney general said.
“Which volcano erupted that such immediate measures were taken against the IGP?” the CJP responded.
“The premier had already summoned names for a replacement IGP from the principal secretary. Nasir Durrani had been told to suggest names in keeping with the government’s vision. Interviews for the next IGP started on September 19. Two officers had been interviewed for the post,” answered the attorney general.
“You are saying that the Islamabad IGP had been appointed by the caretaker government and you had to replace him. But in Punjab, you replaced an IGP that had been appointed by you and Nasir Durrani has resigned,” CJP Nisar said.
“We can see your performance,” the top judge remarked.
“The IGP was transferred on October 27 but the verbal orders were confirmed on October 29. The IGP had been transferred before the summary was approved,” Justice Ijazul Ahsan added.
“A per Rule V,11A, the premier can issue verbal orders,” the attorney general answered.
“The rule only applies in emergency situations, this is your fairytale,” remarked the top judge.
“If interviews had been conducted and a candidate had been selected then what was the need for the emergency?” asked Justice Ahsan.
“The transfer could have been as per routine. But are issuing verbal orders, sending people home or making arrests the rule of the law?” he added.
CJP Nisar had previously taken notice of the transfer of the Islamabad IGP and suspended the notification of transfer during Monday’s hearing.