Supreme Court of Pakistan
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday rejected the federation's request of a full court to hear the petitions against the recently passed contempt of court law, DawnNews reported.

A five-judge bench of the apex court comprising Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Jawad S Khawaja and Justice Tassadduq Hussain Jilani heard the petitions against the new law.

The federation was being represented by Abdul Shakoor Paracha.

During the hearing, Paracha requested that the case be heard by the full court and that the federation be given a space of one or two weeks over the petitions against the contempt law.

Responding to Paracha's request, Chief Justice Iftikhar said that the court had already given ample time to the federation adding that the issue was significant and a decision over it was important.

Moreover, Attorney General Irfan Qadir requested the court for a period of two weeks.

Qadir moreover said that a case such as the one against the contempt of court law had not been heard in the country's history.

Upon which, Justice Iftikhar said that a case of a similar nature had been heard in the court, adding that, the case was heard in 1996 by a four-judge bench headed by Ajmal Mian, the then chief justice of the Supreme Court.

The attorney general read out the 1996 bench's ruling and said that contempt of court laws have been evolving in several parts of the world.

Also during the hearing, counsel for petitioner Baz Muhammad Kakar argued that the judiciary's independence was guaranteed in the preamble to the Constitution.

Upon which, Justice Jilani said that contempt of court laws were an extension of the concept of rule of law.

He moreover said that as long as systems of justice prevailed, laws pertaining to contempt of court would continue to exist.

The chief justice said that only constitutionally valid changes could be made in the law regarding contempt of court.

Subsequently, the court directed the petitioners to conclude their arguments by Tuesday and adjourned the hearing.

The law

The contempt of court law had been hurriedly passed by the ruling government in a bid to protect the incumbent prime minister from facing the same fate as his predecessor.

The law exempts “holders of public office” from the mischief of contempt in “exercise of powers and performance of functions” and allows for suspension of a sentence during the pendency of an appeal.

The main opposition party in the National Assembly, the PML-N, had objected to the passage of the law saying it was not sent to relevant standing committees for deliberation.

The petitions

In all there are 26 petitions against the act and one of the petitioners, Baz Muhammad Kakar, contends 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.

A petition filed on behalf of the Save Judiciary Movement by Advocate Hashmat Habib pleads that the law should be struck down because it goes against the Quran and Sunnah and the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003 be restored.

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