The Supreme Court of Pakistan building – Photo by Alia Chughtai/Dawn.com
The Supreme Court of Pakistan building – Photo by Alia Chughtai/Dawn.com

ISLAMABAD, July 31: In what may have been a slip of the tongue, the counsel representing the federal government conceded before the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the motive behind the passage of the Contempt of Court Act 2012 was to save the new prime minister from being sent home.

“This could be a motive,” Shakoor Paracha said when asked by Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, a member of the five-judge bench, if he was suggesting that the new law had been passed to protect the second prime minister.

The counsel was pleading the government’s case against a set of identical petitions challenging the new contempt law.

“We will be happy to learn about the motive to save the second prime minister,” Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said, adding that it’s good that “your heart has spoken”. Mr Paracha contended that because of the old contempt law an important organ of the state had been paralysed as the former prime minister had been disqualified under it.

“But a new prime minister was appointed in just three minutes,” Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja said.

The chief justice remarked that what the counsel had said was totally wrong because everything had been done in accordance with the democratic order.

But the democratic order should not be run like this, the counsel retorted.

“This is for you to think how to run and govern,” the chief justice said, asking whose responsibility was it to provide electricity and other basic necessities. “Why don’t you enforce Article 9 (security of person), 14 (inviolability of dignity of man) and 25 (equality of citizens) of the Constitution in the country?”

Mr Paracha was of the opinion that loyalty to the state was also one of the fundamental rights and this was for the court to think how to enforce the constitutional provisions in the country.

“It is necessary that all organs of the state should work strictly in their specified domain and everybody, right from top to bottom, has to strive jointly for the welfare of the country,” the counsel said.

“It is their (legislators’) right to make law and it is our job to interpret it,” the chief justice observed.

“When a prime minister is sent home it affects institutions and the country,” Mr Paracha said, adding that everybody knew and it was quite crystal clear why the law was made to save the second or even the third prime minister from being sent home.

“We are not very fond of this,” Justice Khilji Arif said.

This was a settled law that parliament could make any law, the counsel insisted. But after realising what he had said he tried to explain that there was a motive, and it was a good one.

“Someone has to be substituted as the new prime minister to implement the orders of the Supreme Court which had disqualified the former prime minister and asked for appointment of the new prime minister after realising the consequences. The new law was promulgated with good motive,” the counsel insisted.

Shakoor Paracha requested the court to let the new law take its own course to help promote the objectives of democracy and strengthen institutions. He argued that the petitions filed against the new contempt law were based on apprehensions and speculations that fundamental rights of people had been infringed.

Although enforcement of fundamental rights was an obligation of the superior courts, these could be enforced only when someone had a complaint and for the redress of which he had to approach a court of law.

There should be a grievance, a cause of action or a fundamental right which had been infringed, Mr Paracha said, adding that the court should not exercise its jurisdiction on mere apprehensions.

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