CJ says public office holders not immune to prosecution
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard petitions against the recently passed contempt of court law, DawnNews reported.
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, heard 27 identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act, 2012.
During today’s hearing, government’s counsel Abdul Shakoor Paracha concluded his arguments before the bench.
Paracha said the Constitution had left the matter of procedure involving contempt of court proceedings on the judiciary’s discretion, adding that, his arguments would be based on the existing law.
Paracha said the parliament had the authority to grant immunity to anyone, adding that, the parliament could also legislate on the subject of immunity.
He said that the court could not declare the parliament’s step as mala fide as that would be tantamount to declaring the people’s will as mala fide. The constitution’s Article 204 refers to the powers of the judiciary, Paracha added.
He moreover said that Yousuf Raza Gilani had been convicted by the court for contempt and that that could not become a precedent.
The new contempt of court law was passed not to grant immunity to persons but to the steps taken by public office holders in the line of duty, Paracha said.
Upon which Chief Justice Iftikhar said that in case of a sentencing, it was the public office holder who would be convicted and not the steps he/she has taken.
Paracha said Article 204 of the Constitution did not define contempt of court. Upon which, Justice Jilani said that the clauses of Article 204 were based on the definition of contempt of court.
Justice Jilani moreover said that the new law has changed the definition of contempt of court and while the parliament was highly regarded, it could not amend the Constitution by simple majority.
Moreover, Justice Khawaja said that certain clauses in the contempt laws of 1976 and 2012 were similar.
He moreover said that while lawmaking was the job of the parliament, it was the court that had the authority to interpret them.
Justice Khawaja said that the parliament was still working under limitations as it could not interfere in the legislation done by provinces.
A counsel for one of the petitioners asked how issues not dealt with in the Constitution would be addressed.
Justice Jilani said the law should reflect the essence of the Constitution.
Moreover, Chief Justice Iftikhar said the Constitution has not said that those holding public offices would be immune to prosecution in case they committed contempt of court.
The chief justice said that the law could not distinguish between two persons and treat them with discrimination for the same offence.
The bench later adjourned the hearing to Thursday where Attorney General Irfan Qadir is expected to present his arguments.