ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court Chief (IHC) Justice Athar Minallah on Friday rejected a plea seeking a contempt of court action against PML-N leaders for criticising former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar, observing that the 'contempt of court' laws do not apply on the criticism of former judges, not even if they retired as the apex judge of the country.
The petition against PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had been moved in the IHC over their latest remarks against ex-CJP Nisar.
Maryam, in a detailed press conference held on Wednesday, had censured the top judge over the recently surfaced audio clip in which a man, allegedly Nisar, is heard issuing directions for wrongful conviction or detention of Maryam and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif.
The retired CJP, however, has already strongly denied that the allegations of issuing any extra-judicial or illegal directives in any corruption cases against the Sharifs. He has said the audio clip in question has been fabricated and he is contemplating what kind of legal action he will take against it.
The petitioner Kalsum Khaliq, had contended in her plea that Maryam and Abbasi tried to scandalise the judiciary through their statements about the retired chief justice.
She had asked the court to initiate contempt of court proceedings against both PML-N leaders.
During the hearing, Justice Minallah noted that the victim, in this case, can claim defamation through the courts.
Declaring the plea non-maintainable, he also remarked that contempt of court laws do not protect from criticism a retired person, even if they are a former chief justice.
“First of all, judges are open-minded about criticism. There is no contempt of court for a retired person, even if the person is a former chief justice. Judges are in a very high position and criticism should be welcomed," he said.
In the order, the IHC CJ stated that the petitioner was offended over the criticism of the former chief justice.
The IHC said that after retirement, judges are not part of the bench and are common citizens and can approach alternative forums to get justice.
“Contempt law can only be used when it is done in the public interest.”
Maryam, Abbasi criticise former CJP
On Wednesday, Maryam Nawaz had addressed a hard-hitting press conference in which she demanded 'answers' from the former CJP.
She had asked Nisar to "come forth" and tell the nation who "pressured" him and whom it was that he "could not refuse" regarding her conviction and that of her father, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, in the Avenfield apartments reference.
Maryam, addressing the former CJP, had said: "Whether today, or tomorrow, you will have to tell the nation the truth. There is still time. Come forth, tell the nation who pressured you to sentence Nawaz Sharif if it was unwarranted? Who pressured you to sentence Maryam Nawaz, if it was without merit. And who told you that Imran Khan needs to be brought to power?"
"Who was it that you could not refuse, despite being the chief justice of Pakistan at the time?" she had stated, repeating the talking points from the audio circulated by journalist Ahmed Noorani as an authentic recording of a conversation between the former chief justice and an unknown individual.
"Why were you forced to take an illegal, unconstitutional step?" she had asked.
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