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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court withdrew on Friday contempt of court notices issued against some superior court judges for violating a seven-judge 2007 restraining order requiring the judges not to take oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) minutes after the second coup through the Emergency Order of Nov 3, 2007 by former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

“The contempt of court is always between the court and the contemnor and in this case the court does not want to pursue the matter,” observed Supreme Court Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar while heading a four-judge Supreme Court bench.

“It was 11 years ago and a long time has passed since the matter was initiated in view of the situation then, but all honourable judges against whom the notices were issued have ceased to be in high offices,” the chief justice observed while closing the brief hearing. “Therefore, we withdraw the contempt notices.”

Referring to the former chief justice of Lahore High Court, Justice Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry, the chief justice observed that since the judge had passed away and the contempt notice had become infructous, “we would like to withdraw the notice”.

Attorney general supports the decision, saying the events of that time are now history

Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf supported the withdrawal of the notices by stating that the events of that time were now history.

On Nov 3, 2017, a seven-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had overturned the PCO soon after the proclamation of emergency and restrained the then Chief of the Army Staff (Gen Musharraf), Corps Commanders, Staff Officers and all civil and military officers concerned from acting under the decree.

The decree also required Gen Musharraf and then prime minister Shaukat Aziz not to take actions contrary to the independence of the judiciary and directed all judges of the Supreme Court or high courts, including their chief justices, not to take oath under the PCO or any other extra-constitutional step.

“We feel that the government has no ground or reason to take extra-constitutional steps, particularly for the reasons being published in the newspapers that high-profile case is pending and is not likely to be decided in favour of the government, although the matter is still pending,” the then order had stated.

The former judges who were still facing contempt of court notices were Shabbar Raza Rizvi, Khurshid Anwar Bhinder, Hamid Ali Shah, Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry, Hasnaat Ahmed Khan, Yasmin Abbasey, Jehan Zeb Raheem and Syed Sajjad Hussain Shah.

The contempt of court notices against a number of former judges were issued in the wake of a landmark July 31, 2009, verdict in which a 14-judge Supreme Court bench, also headed by former Justice Chaudhry, had declared illegal all military takeovers of the last four decades and their endorsement by the superior judiciary, including the appointment of over 100 superior court judges.

A majority of judges against whom the contempt of court notices were issued subsequently resigned and, as a result, the notices against them were withdrawn. However, the appointment of those who had decided to contest the contempt notices, was subsequently declared illegal through a May 18, 2011, notification by the law ministry.

On Jan 5, the chief justice had dropped a hint that the court might consider withdrawing the contempt notices because it was an unpleasant experience for the court.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2018