Government gets rid of contempt of court threat
10 July, 2012
ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday got passed with majority vote "The Contempt of Court Bill, 2012" from the National Assembly, apparently to immune the prime minister against contempt proceedings in the continuing NRO implementation case, amidst opposition warnings that the new legislation would be 'shot down' by the court and the 'direct aggression on the apex court' may invite the third force to intervene.
As soon as Law Minister Farooq H Naek moved a resolution to suspend the rules of business and pass the proposed bill at once, the major opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) objected to the move. However, the treasury Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the opposition Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) continued to be silent spectators to the situation throughout the proceedings as Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and PML-N legislators argued in favour and against the proposed legislation respectively.
Dissatisfied with the government's move, PML-N legislator Khurram Dastgeer termed the proposed legislation a move to immunise public-office holders from judicial scrutiny. He said the haste shown by the government spoke a lot of its malafide intentions. He termed the move a licence to abuse of authority. He further said there was no clash between parliament and judiciary but executive and judiciary.
PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique said that the accountability law had been hanging in the air for the last four years but the government had not paid any heed to the issue, adding the haste behind the passage of the bill reflected malafide intentions. "The objective of the new legislation is to tie hands of the judiciary... the bad law will be shot down. Don't continue with humiliating parliament," Rafique said. He termed the new legislation direct aggression on the apex court and asked the treasury to avoid "adventure". Opposing the proposed legislation, Kashmala Tariq said the court should strike it down as it was based on bad intentions.
Captain Safdar of the PML-N, terming the move a "suicide attack on the Supreme Court", observed that it was to pave way for a "coup" in the country. Zafar Beg Bhittani asked parliamentarians not to desecrate parliament through their acts.
Under the new law, exercise of powers and performance of functions by a public-office holder of his respective office under Clause (1) of Article 248 of the constitution for any act done or purported to be done in exercise of those powers and performance of those functions shall not amount to commission of contempt of court.
Fair comment about the general working of courts made in good faith in the public interest and in temperate language, fair comments on the merits of a decision of a court made, after the pendency of the proceedings in a case, in good faith and in temperate language also shall not amount to commission of contempt of court.
Similarly, remarks made in an administrative capacity by any authority in the course of official business, including those in connection with a disciplinary inquiry or in an inspection note or a character roll or confidential report and a true statement made in good faith respecting the conduct of a judge in a matter not connected with the performance of his judicial functions will not invite contempt of court proceedings.
Under the new law, the judge first taking cognisance of the offence would not be the member of the bench set up by the chief justice. No material, which has been expunged from the record under the orders of a court of competent jurisdiction or the presiding officer of the Senate, the National Assembly or a provincial assembly shall be admissible in evidence.