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July 3, 2020

Contempt of judiciary: SC rejects Agha Iftikhar’s apology

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July 3, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Thursday issued a show-cause notice to Agha Iftikhar-ud-Din Mirza for using a derogatory and contemptuous language against the judiciary and judges in a video that got viral on the social media.

A two-member bench of the apex court – comprising Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Ijazul Ahsen – heard the suo motu case on Mirza’s video. The chief justice had taken suo motu notice of the video and issued notices to Iftikhar-ud-Din Mirza, DG FIA and attorney general for Pakistan on June 26 for appearance in the court July 2.

On Thursday, the court expressed dissatisfaction with the affidavit submitted by the alleged contemnor, seeking an unconditional apology and leaving himself at the court mercy. "We are not satisfied with the affidavit submitted by the alleged contemnor to the court and are of considered view prima facie that a contempt of court was made out,” Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed noted down in the order.

The court issued a show-cause notice to explain as to why contempt of court proceedings should not be initiated against him against under Contempt of Court Ordinance 2004. The court directed the alleged contemnor to submit his reply within a week besides directing the FIA to produce the accused before it on July 15.

Earlier, when the court resumed the hearing, Mirza’s counsel Sarkar Abbas submitted before the court that her client first came to the court on June 26 but he was taken into custody by the police. She further submitted that the other day, her client filed an affidavit and tendered an unconditional apology from the court. Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked the counsel if she had heard the language used by the alleged contemnor.

Justice Ahsen said using a derogatory language against the judiciary and judges and then offering an unconditional apology was not enough. “There are some parameters for submitting an apology,” he said, adding that it constituted an offence under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and hence tendering an apology was not enough.

The counsel, however, submitted that her client had not realized the sensitivity and intensity of the statement he had made adding that he had sought an apology. She contended that her client talked in a private conversation. Interrupting the counsel, Justice Ijazul Ahsen observed that some seven persons were sitting before the alleged contemnor wherein he made the statement and recorded the video.

The judge further observed that the contention that the instant video was made without consent of the alleged contemnor could be investigated further. “But the unconditional apology tendered by the alleged contemnor is itself an admission,” Justice Ahsen remarked and asked the lawyer if she was arguing that her client had done nothing then why he was seeking an apology.

Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed observed that the affidavit was not submitted by the alleged contemnor in a proper way and without adopting legal parameters. “Who identified the alleged contemnor before the oath commissioner?” the CJP asked the counsel.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked the counsel as to how the oath commissioner knew while sitting in a Kutchery about the person giving an affidavit. “This not a proper way and don’t take the things casually,” the chief justice asked the counsel for the alleged contemnor. Sarkar Abbas contended that her client was a heart patient and his veins were blocked.

The chief justice, however, asked the counsel as to why her client did not control his tongue while using a derogatory language against the judiciary. Justice Ahsen observed that the alleged contemnor was running a full-fledged video channel and had many subscribers. The chief justice observed that the alleged contemnor was earning money through his channel by uploading his videos on the social media.

Justice Ahsen noted that the scholar had used such a language that could not be used even on the streets. The counsel, however, pleaded that her client was ill and had been admitted to the PIMS and he would die if he were not pardoned. She said even Allah pardons people and hence he should be pardoned.

The CJP, however, observed that there were certain sins that had no clemency. The counsel said the clauses of Anti-Terrorism Act could not be applied to her client adding that the said video was uploaded by a 15-year-old boy.

Justice Ahsen replied that the counsel could approach the relevant forum to challenge that matter. Justice Ahsen further observed that initially the arguments of the counsel were something else and now she had put the whole thing on a 15-year old boy.

“Does the contemnor say anything further and what precedent you are setting that first a video be uploaded on YouTube, ridiculing the institution of judiciary and its judges and then submit a simple apology and take relief thereafter,” Justice Ahsen asked the counsel.

He asked Attorney General Khalid Javed to assist the court on Section 5 sub-section 2 of Contempt of Court Ordinance. The attorney general submitted that this was a statement crafted by the alleged contemnor wherein he named the judges as well as two journalists in the said video clip. The AG further submitted that the reputation and prestige of the judiciary had been tarnished.

He further said the accused was at present in hospital for being a heart patient adding that his ECG was conducted, which was declared normal but he was informed that the patient was feeling faintness. At this, Justice Ijazul Ahsen said when somebody receives a notice from the court, they faint.