ISLAMABAD: Eight months after his tirade against the judiciary, the Supreme Court on Thursday convicted ruling party Senator Nehal Hashmi of committing contempt of court and sent him to jail for one month, besides disqualifying him from holding any public office for five years.
Dismissing his unconditional apology which he had submitted during the last hearing on Jan 24, a three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Dost Muhammad Khan also imposed a fine of Rs50,000 on Mr Hashmi. On default of payment of the fine, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader will undergo a simple imprisonment for another 15 days.
Mr Hashmi was present in the courtroom at the time of the announcement of the verdict and was immediately arrested by the police. As per the court’s directive, the police later shifted him to Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, for serving the sentence.
PML-N senator is disqualified from holding public office for five years; CJ issues contempt notice to Tallal Chaudhry
It is interesting to note that when the two judges found Senator Hashmi guilty of committing contempt of court, Justice Dost Muhammad Khan “abstained” from sharing his opinion “for purely personal reasons”.
In another significant development on Thursday, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took a suo motu notice of anti-judiciary speeches by Minister of State for Interior Tallal Chaudhry of the PML-N and summoned him to appear before the court on Feb 6.
It is believed that the notice has been issued to the state minister over his recent speech at a public meeting in Jaranwala which he had delivered in the presence of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam.
“If the judges of this court were weaklings or feeble at heart and if they could be frightened or browbeaten by verbal assaults or naked threats, then the respondent namely Senator Nehal Hashmi had surely made a valiant attempt at that. It, however, appears that he and those he wanted to obey or please are poor judges of men,” wrote Justice Saeed Khosa in the detailed judgement.
“Through the relevant speech made by him [Mr Hashmi] on 28.05.2017, the respondent had established that he is a firebrand speaker and the tone, the pitch and the delivery of the offending words bear an ample testimony to that but unfortunately on that day he had spewed fire towards a wrong direction.
“He [Mr Hashmi] launched a verbal tirade and issued naked threats which he now himself realises to be improper, unwise and imprudent. The offending words uttered by the respondent in the relevant speech, which words are admitted and not denied by him, were nothing but an effort to obstruct, interfere with and prejudice the proceedings pending before this court and before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) working under the direct command and supervision of this court in the Panama Papers case,” said the judgement that also quoted extracts in Urdu from Mr Hashmi’s controversial speech.
“The manner in which the respondent had acted on the occasion was surely prejudicial to the integrity and independence of the judiciary of Pakistan as a whole as it had defamed and brought it into ridicule. While adverting to the provisions of Section 18 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 (Ordinance No. V of 2003), we have felt satisfied that the contempt committed by the respondent is quite grave and is one which is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice besides tending to bring this court and the judges of this court into disrespect and hatred,” the verdict said.
The judges observed that the “belated apology” submitted by Mr Hashmi after about seven months of commencement of these proceedings and “at the fag end of such proceedings when the evidence of the prosecution has already been completely recorded and closed speaks volumes about the apology being an afterthought”.
Sources told Dawn that Mr Hashmi had been shifted to the jail hospital after he informed the jail authorities that he had been a heart patient and doctors had implanted three stents some three months ago. He was shifted to the hospital after he produced his medical record.
A senior jail official said that Mr Hashmi would not be shifted to any barrack because of his health condition.
Already suspended from the party after his controversial speech which he had delivered at a gathering in Karachi in May, Mr Hashmi had created an embarrassing situation for his party when he defied the directives of party president and then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and refused to resign from the Senate.
Mr Hashmi, who had submitted the resignation on the party’s directive, later withdrew it, informing the Senate chairman that he had “furnished” his resignation under “quite unusual circumstances”.
PML-N information secretary Mushahidullah Khan had stated at that time that the party leadership was extremely angry with Mr Hashmi — first for his tirade against the judiciary and then for withdrawing his resignation from the Senate.
Mr Khan had termed Mr Hashmi’s decision to withdraw his resignation “ditching the prime minister” — who had done him a favour by having him elected senator on a Punjab seat, despite the fact that Mr Hashmi is originally from Sindh.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan hailed the Supreme Court judgement against Mr Hashmi. In his official account on Twitter, Mr Khan said: “The whole nation stands with the SC and they should not be weighed down by the contemptuous and abusive behavior of Sharifs and their Darbaris [courtiers].”
The Karachi Bar Association (KBA) has announced that it will observe a strike on Friday (today) in protest against the punishment of Nehal Hashmi in the contempt of court case.
KBA President Advocate Haider Imam Rizvi said in a statement issued in Karachi on Thursday that the apex court had withdrawn contempt of court notices in the past against Muttahida Qaumi Movement founder Altaf Hussain, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, PTI chief Imran Khan and others after they had tendered unconditional apology.
“The Supreme Court should have continued its traditions by taking lenient view of the matter,” he added.
He said KBA members would not appear before the courts, to record their protest.
Mohammad Asghar from Rawalpindi also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2018