The Supreme Court on Thursday indicted Minister of State for Interior Tallal Chaudhary for contempt of court.
A three-judge SC bench, comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Faisal Arab, had taken up the matter following the minister’s alleged derogatory and contemptuous statements and speeches against the apex court at PML-N public gatherings.
The court provided Chaudhary's lawyer a copy of the charge sheet, which mentioned that the indictment comes on speeches made on September 24 and 27, 2017. The defendant, however, denied the charges.
Earlier in today's hearing, Chaudhary submitted an application in court asking that the same restraint be shown in his case as shown in cases pertaining to Minister for Railways Saad Rafique and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's alleged contemptuous speeches.
The SC on Wednesday had dismissed a contempt of court petition against Sharif and Rafique filed by a leader of former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's political party. The court had said that "commenting cleanly on a [court] decision is the right of every citizen".
Prior to the charges being framed, Chaudhary's lawyer tried to sway the court into pausing the proceedings by asking that the indictment be delayed until the detailed judgment in the Sharif contempt of court case — which was dismissed — comes out.
"An indictment is an unpleasant stain," the lawyer said, adding that his client's statement cannot be termed as contemptuous. "At most, the remarks can be called dishonest, but they do not fall under contempt of court."
"There have been instances in the past where a contempt case was dismissed after an indictment. We will give you the chance to defend Chaudhary, let us indict him," Justice Ijaz Afzal responded.
The case will now be heard on March 27.
During his speech at PML-N's rally in Jarranwala in January, Chaudhary had said: "There was an era when the Kaabah was full of idols. Today, the judiciary, which is the country's highest institution, is also full of PCO [Provisional Constitution Order] idols."
"Mian Nawaz Sharif, throw them out, throw him out of the court. They will not give justice but will continue their injustices."
The court on Tuesday had indicted another PML-N leader, Minister for Privatisation Daniyal Aziz, over his allegedly contemptuous statements, observing that Aziz was "committed to scandalising the court".
Following last year's Panama Papers judgement in which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified, members of the ruling party, including Aziz and Chaudhary — on a number of occasions — had launched unprecedented verbal attacks on the country’s judiciary, accusing it of having different standards for the former prime minister than for his opponents.