ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Monday observed the judiciary and parliament were not against each other, saying “we take wisdom from the debates that occurred on the floor of the house”.
A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Iftikhar and comprising Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Jawwad S Khwaja and Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, resumed the hearing of 27 identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act, 2012.
During the hearing, the chief justice said the people were more aware of their rights now and had insights into major issues of the country, adding that such an awareness among the people would strengthen democracy. “Even in Europe and America when a new law comes, there is a debate on it by civil the society and people belonging to all walks of life. It is a healthy sign and generates feedback as well,” he added.
Commencing his arguments, Latif Afridi, counsel for the Pakistan Bar Council, requested the court to strike down the new contempt law because it was not in agreement with the Constitution. He said the law was a product of precarious circumstances, adding that there was a difference of opinion between parliament and judiciary. He said democracy in Pakistan was not mature as the country was ruled by dictators during half of its history.
He said a cold war was going on between the judiciary and legislature. “It’s a hot war, but it will find a destination of consensus,” Justice Jawwad Khwaja told the learned counsel. The chief justice however, observed the method to evolve a consensus was indeed a change of attitude.
Latifi Afrdi said the Supreme Court was playing the role of a doctor, adding that when a patient arrives, the apex court prescribed the medicines so that the patient was treated, not killed. Afridi, while citing an Indian Supreme Court judgment, said: “Rule of law is the basic rule of governance in every polity of the nation.” The learned counsel further submitted that the whole act of the new law should be struck down as it was repugnant to fundamental rights.
Earlier, Shahid Orakazi, a petitioner, requested the court to give a decision in the case to awaken the people, letting them know that there was a great threat to the Constitution as well as to the fundamental rights. He said the Contempt of Court Act 2012 was against the Constitution and it could not be enforced on the provinces. As per the Constitution, he contended, separate laws were to be made for both the federation and federating units.
He further said it was not mentioned in Article 204 of the Contempt of Court Act that a person could be pardoned, adding that when the Constitution did not allow immunity or pardon, how could the new law do so.
Orakzai said the word ‘ridicule’ had been excluded from the new contempt of court law, adding that a judge must be respected and the Constitution did not grant immunity to anyone.
At this, the chief justice observed it had become a trend in the country that if a court decided in favour of a party, it was considered a fair verdict, but if it was against that party, then the court was considered an enemy.
Mahmood Ahmed Bhatti, counsel for another petitioner, said there should not be an intra-court appeal for a show-cause notice in the new contempt of court law, adding the object of the appeal was to prolong the litigation process.
Justice (retd) Nasira Javed Iqbal, counsel for one of the petitioners, submitted the new contempt law was ultra vires to Article 204(2), and was passed in haste
Later, the court directed Munir Paracha, counsel for the federation, and Attorney General Irfan Qadir to conclude their arguments today (Tuesday). Paracha sought some time but the court declined his request and asked him to conclude his arguments today.
NNI adds: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said the logical end of the contempt of court case would be to the benefit of democracy, irrespective of whatever might it be.
He said parliament and judiciary were for the 180 million people of Pakistan, adding that debate in the media, civil society and judiciary over the new contempt law was a positive sign.