'Contempt of court' cases on the rise in Pakistan
01 July, 2012
ISLAMABAD: Contempt of court cases have remained dominant in Supreme Court's (SC) proceedings against parliamentarians and others in 2012.
It has been witnessed that contempt proceedings against politicians are increasing day by day. Five important contempt cases were taken up by superior courts this week and several contempt matters will remain dominant in the SC proceedings next week.
Top jurists recommend the judiciary to use its contempt power rationally because overuse of contempt proceedings against politicians will raise questions on superior courts' integrity and punishment can never bring integrity and respect to any institution.
They also urge parliament to amend Article 63(1)(g) as it may be used selectively against civilians in the name of ridiculing judiciary and army.
After the issuance of July 31, 2009 verdict, superior courts initiated contempt proceedings against those superior courts judges who had violated November 3, 2007, order and took oath under PCO.
Later on, a special bench was constituted to initiate contempt proceedings against more then 60 PCO judges. But with the passage of time, most of these judges submitted unconditional apology and, therefore, evaded conviction.
Although the superior judiciary had taken a decision against its own judges on July 31, 2009, still no step has been taken against other high-ups of military cadres who defied the seven-member bench order and supported the November 3, 2007, emergency and the PCO.
During the hearing of a case against the National Assembly speaker's ruling, Attorney General Irfan Qadir had also questioned that why the court did not act against civilians and military cadres who had defied the court's November 3, 2007, judgement.
In the current year, the SC has fixed contempt cases against politicians, including former prime minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gilani, for not implementing its December 16, 2009, judgement in the NRO case.
On January 16, the court issued a show-cause notice to former PM Gilani. Later, he appeared before the bench three times in the contempt of court case. On June 19, he was declared disqualified for ridiculing the judiciary and not complying with the court's judgement in the NRO case.
In this contempt case, senior lawyers believe that the SC did not adopt a due process while disqualifying the former PM. They said the matter should have been referred to the Election Commission of Pakistan.
The court also initiated another contempt proceedings against Pakistan People's Party leader Babar Awan for addressing a press conference against the court's December 1, 2011, judgement in the memo scandal.
On January 17, the Supreme Court suspended former law minister's law practicing licence under Order V, Rule 30 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980, for allegedly ridiculing the judiciary.
On May 7, Babar Awan submitted an unconditional apology, requesting the court to restore his law practicing licence. But still he was not allowed to practice as a lawyer in the Supreme Court.
This week, the court also resumed contempt proceedings against Prime Minister's Adviser on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik on changing the investigation team in the Pakistan Steel Mills corruption case in 2009.
On the other hand, the Supreme Court has also decided to initiate contempt proceedings against real estate tycoon Malik Riaz for allegedly ridiculing the judiciary in his press conference.
On April 28, the court issued notices to an owner of a media house and two TV anchors on a petition to initiate contempt proceedings against them for airing a "planted interview" of Malik Riaz in a special talk show on June 13.
The Supreme Court has also entrained a contempt petition against the incumbent AG for not properly assisting the bench in the dual nationality case.
Last week, the Lahore High Court has accepted a petition for initiating a contempt of court case against President Asif Ali Zardari for holding dual offices.
The AG believes there is no contempt law in the country.
Article 63(1)(g) says, "A person shall be disqualified as he has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for propagating any opinion, acting in any manner, prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity, or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan, or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the armed forces of Pakistan, unless a period of five years has lapsed since his release."
Former SCBA president Asma Jahangir said that there should not be pick and choose in the use of the article. "Why this article was not used in Supreme Court attack case?" she questioned.