IHC dismisses contempt petition against PML-N leaders for ‘scandalising’ former CJP

The Islamabad High Court on Friday dismissed a petition, seeking contempt proceedings against PML-N leaders, Maryam Nawaz and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, for ‘scandalising’ former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar.

It is pertinent to note that on November 15, Abbasi had demanded a suo motu notice against Nisar after former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan, Rana Shamim, accused him of deliberately denying bail to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Maryam ahead of the 2018 general elections.

“If Mian Nawaz Sharif can go to jail, why can’t Mian Saqib Nisar?” Abbasi stated.

As per reports, former top judge of GB had witnessed Nisar relaying instructions to a high court judge to not grant bail to Nawaz and Maryam in the corruption cases against them.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah while throwing out the petition stated that a judge who ceased to hold a judicial office “attains the status of a private citizen”.

He added that “Such a person is no more a member of the ‘Court’ in the context of Article 204 of the Constitution nor under the Ordinance of 2003”

The court said judges were entrusted with an “onerous duty to serve the people through the fountain of justice and they are not immune from public scrutiny nor criticism”.

“An independent judge would not be influenced nor affected in any other manner because of public criticism,” he continued.

He further stated that as a private citizen, “it remains open to a retired judicial officer to seek remedies available in a court of law. However, the offence of contempt is not attracted in the case of a retired judge because after retirement the latter attains the status of a private citizen.”

The IHC chief justice went on to explain that the exercise of the power of contempt would be justified only if it was in the public interest.

“In the case in hand, the petitioner seems to be hurt because a former Chief Justice of Pakistan has been publicly criticised in his individual capacity. This definitely does not attract the offence of contempt,” the order read.

The IHC had taken notice of the investigative report on November 16 and issued show-cause notices to Ansar Abbasi, the former chief judge of GB and two others. The next hearing of the case will be held on November 30.

It is pertinent to note that earlier during the hearing, Justice Minallah observed that remarks about retired officials did not warrant contempt of court charges, even if they were made against a former chief justice.

He insisted that judges were open-minded about criticism, saying, “Judges hold a very high position and they should welcome criticism.”

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