Tallal seeks withdrawal of contempt charge

Published February 26, 2018
TALLAL Chaudhry had engaged Asma Jahangir as his counsel, but due to her sudden death he has now hired Kamran Murtaza, the vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council.
TALLAL Chaudhry had engaged Asma Jahangir as his counsel, but due to her sudden death he has now hired Kamran Murtaza, the vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council.

ISLAMABAD: As the Supreme Court is scheduled to begin contempt of court proceedings against Minis­ter of State for Interior Mohammad Tallal Chaudhry on Monday, he has pleaded to withdraw the charge since he faces no allegation of prejudicing any matter pending before the court.

A three-judge SC bench comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Faisal Arab will take up the matter suo motu over the minister’s alleged derogatory and contemptuous statements and speeches at Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) public gatherings against the apex court.

Mr Chaudhry had engaged Asma Jahangir as his counsel but due to her sudden death, he has now hired Kamran Murtaza, the vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council.

Another PML-N leader and Minister for Privatisation Daniyal Aziz also faces similar charges.

Earlier on Feb 1, the apex court sent party loyalist Nehal Hashmi to Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail on contempt charges, eight months after his outburst on May 28, 2017 in which he appeared to have threatened members of the SC-appointed joint investigation team and the judiciary for probing allegations against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members stemming from the Panama Papers leaks. The court sentenced Mr Hashmi to one month in prison with Rs50,000 fine. He will undergo simple imprisonment for another 15 days in case he fails to pay the fine.

Apex court set to begin proceedings today

Short of tendering an apology, Tallal Chaudhry in a three-page reply, to which he called “interim”, said he honestly believed that he had neither uttered anything nor acted in a manner which might be construed as causing obstruction of the process of the court in any way, or that any order of the court had been disobeyed.

According to him, scandalising the court or acting for bringing it into hatred, ridicule or contempt is not even the last thing on his mind and whatever has been stated may have been taken into account without relevance to the context due to media reporting.

“Needless to add that chief justice of the Supreme Court has himself recently observed that speeches made by various persons are misconstrued and depicted in negative phraseology in order to sensationalise certain matters and issues,” the reply contended.

The provision of Article 204 of the Constitution, which deals with the contempt of court, jealously guards and protects the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression through Article 19, the reply explains.

It is well settled by now that Article 204 is to be construed in conjunction with Article 19 and Article 66 thereof in a manner which should deter the commission of contempt of court, but at the same time it should preserve and protect the freedom of speech and expression, it adds.

Mr Chaudhry furnished with utmost humility that he exercised his right of free speech and expression within the four corners of law.

He explained that as a democratic worker and parliamentarian, he always ventured to uphold the Constitution. This court being the custodian of the fundamental rights by the Constitution was a symbol of utmost respect for him and he firmly believed that he had never intentionally or unintentionally committed any action which might be construed as contempt of the court, he said.

He explained that he was a law-abiding citizen and in his capacity as a parliamentarian and member of the legal fraternity he had a conviction that the respect of an individual flowed from the right guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of land. However, this element of guarantee of respect has to be reciprocated by the individuals from their conduct and actions of adherence to law.

Mr Chaudhry asked the court to order provision of the material/content so that he could furnish his reply after going through the material in issue.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2018

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