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Mian Saqib Nisar hinted at interpreting Article 204 of Constitution

24 April, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday hinted at interpreting Article 204 of the Constitution in a way to enhance the sentence until the convict purges his contempt before the court.

“We are considering interpreting Article 204 of the Constitution independent of the provisions of the contempt of court ordinance (COCO) 2003 in a manner that punishment of six months may continue until the accused purges himself before the court,” the chief justice observed.

The observation came during the hearing of a set of appeals by seven former senior members of the Islamabad capital administration and police personnel convicted of roughing up former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on March 13, 2007.

The apex court initiates contempt of court proceedings under Article 204 of the Constitution read with COCO, 2003. While Article 204 empowers the court to initiate a contempt charge against individuals for scandalising the courts, Section 5 of COCO provides a punishment of six months or a fine extending up to Rs100,000.

Under the 2003 contempt law, an appeal is heard by a five-member or larger bench.

The appeals were moved against the Nov 1, 2007 order of the Supreme Court that had sentenced Islamabad’s senior administration officials and police personnel for manhandling Justice Chaudhry by preventing him from marching towards the apex court to answer the allegation of misuse of office before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). However, soon after the announcement, the sentence was suspended for 15 days on the request of the convicts for filing appeals against the convictions.

Former Islamabad chief commissioner Khalid Pervaiz and deputy commissioner Chaudhry Mohammad Ali were sentenced to imprisonment till rising of the court, while former inspector general of police Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmed and senior superintendent of police retired captain Zafar Iqbal were sentenced to 15 days in jail. Deputy superintendent of police Jamil Hashmi, police inspector Rukhsar Mehdi and assistant sub-inspector Mohammad Siraj were sentenced to one month imprisonment.

Later, a 10-member bench barred the respective departments from taking any adverse action against the appellants till pendency of their appeals.

On Monday, the chief justice suggested senior counsel Sheikh Ehsanud Din to ask the former chief justice whether he was willing to pardon the contemnors.

Subsequently, the counsel contacted the former chief justice and later told the court that Justice Chaudhry had communicated to him that he had nothing to do with the issue but it concerned with the prestige of the institution.

At this, the CJP observed that the Supreme Court would then proceed in accordance with law and referred the matter to a five-judge bench, as the appeals in contempt cases are always heard by larger benches.

While resuming hearing of suo motu notice of availability of police security to non-entitled individuals, the Supreme Court observed that certain laws or rules be developed to provide police security only to those individuals who were at high risk and genuinely needed such security.

The court, however, observed that a policy so made should not be subjective but objective.

As a result of the notice, more than 12,600 police personnel deputed on security duties were withdrawn by the federal and the provincial governments from the individuals who were not entitled to keep them. In the exercise, police guards provided to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Awami National Party chief Asfandyar Wali and many others were withdrawn.

On Monday, the chief justice said Mr Wali complained about the withdrawal of police security, observing that the same should be provided to him if it was necessary. He explained that the apex court never stopped the authorities from providing “permissible security” to ex-PM Nawaz Sharif. Security should be provided to individuals whether a politician, a lawyer or a media person if they were facing life threats, he added.

The CJP recalled that a senior lawyer pleading a high-profile case had approached the court seeking protection and in turn the court entitled him for the provision of police security.

Appearing before the apex court, Islamabad IGP Dr Sultan Azam Temuri said the police department had constituted a threat assessment committee comprising officials including those from intelligence agencies. The committee was tasked with examining requests for police security and deciding the cases, he added.

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