ISLAMABAD, July 21: The coming week will be hectic in the Supreme Court. Not only is determining the contours of the new law on contempt of court on the agenda but also cases pertaining to the law and order situation in Balochistan and the implementation of the NRO verdict, in which Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf will have to answer questions regarding his government’s stance on the letter that the court says should be sent to the Swiss authorities.
The week will commence with hearing on a set of challenges on Monday to the Contempt of the Court Act, 2012, perceived to have been adopted by parliament to protect Prime Minister Ashraf from possible disqualification.
The petitions will be heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani, Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain. The bench will hear 26 petitions against the act.
The Supreme Court had issued notices after holding a preliminary hearing of one of the petitions, filed by Baz Muhammad Kakar, in Quetta on July 13 to Attorney General Irfan Qadir and other respondents — Prime Minister Ashraf through the principal secretary, Law Minister Farooq H. Naek, Senate Chairman Nayyar Bokhari and National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza through the secretaries of the houses, the cabinet and establishment secretaries and the federation through the law secretary.
The court held that “this petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution calls in question the constitutionality of the Contempt of Court Act, 2012 being inter alia in violation of Articles 2-A, 9, 14, 25 and 204 of the constitution. Therefore, the respondents and the AG may file concise statements if advised and desired”.
The petitioners include Muhammad Siddique Khan Baloch, Syed Mehmood Akhtar Naqvi, the Lawyer Writers Forum, Mahmudul Hassan, Chaudhry Muhammad Ashraf Gujjar, Chaudhry Khalid Farooq, Abdul Naveed Khan, Ghulam Mustafa, Shahid Naseem Gondal, Muhammad Azhar Siddique, the Watan Party, the Judicial Activism Panel, the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Maulvi Iqbal Haider, Chaudhry Amjad Hassan Ali, the Communist Party of Pakistan, G.M. Chaudhry, the Save Judiciary Movement, the Sindh Bar Council, Solicitor Muhammad Dawood, Zafarullah Khan, Muhammad Jamil Rana, Shahid Orakzai, Arshad Mehmood Bagoo and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC).
Mr Kakar contended that Section 3(i) of the new act curtailed the power and jurisdiction of the court under Article 204(2) of the Constitution to punish ‘any person’ who abused, interfered with or obstructed the process of the court in any way or disobeyed any order of the court. It also violated Article 25 which guaranteed equal protection of the laws, he said.
The petitioner contended that the law also violated the independence of the judiciary, guaranteed by Articles 2-A, 175 and 190, and its provisions might affect the fundamental rights.
A petition filed on behalf of the Save Judiciary Movement by Advocate Hashmat Habib on Friday pleaded that the law be struck down because it went against the Quran and Sunnah and the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003 be restored, which the new law repealed.
He argued that the intention of the legislature and the president behind the enactment of the law appeared to be mala fide and in conflict with the Constitution.
On Wednesday, a special bench comprising Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Amir Hani Muslim, Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed will resume hearing of the NRO order implementation case.
The prime minister is required to submit a report on implementing the order against the National Reconciliation Ordinance, failing which he will face ‘any appropriate action under the Constitution’ to be initiated by the court.
The attorney general informed the court on July 12 that the cabinet would take a decision in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution when the law ministry gave its opinion on the issue regarding writing the letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen money-laundering cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.