A Lahore High Court (LHC) three-member bench on Monday began hearing petitions seeking a ban on "contemptuous" speeches by Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and other PML-N leaders.
The bench — comprising Justice Masood Jahangir, Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Atir Mehmood — is the fourth one to be constituted after three judges recused themselves from earlier benches.
Hot words were exchanged between Sharif's counsel A.K. Dogar and Justice Naqvi when the former objected to the inclusion of Justice Mehmood on the bench since he has served as the secretary general of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's lawyer forum in the past.
"It is my right to raise objections," said Dogar, adding: "The party has just begun."
Justice Naqvi did not take kindly to the lawyer's attempt at repartee, reminding him that he was standing in the courtroom. "Mr Dogar, this is a court; decisions here will be taken according to the law rather than your wishes."
"What is this that you have begun? Are these legal arguments?"
"You are a senior lawyer, don't say such things," Justice Naqvi said.
Justice Naqvi then prevented Dogar from presenting further arguments, saying that even notices have not been served as yet. "We might just reject these petitions; you should present your arguments after notices have been served."
"You know how much you are respected — keep this respect intact," Justice Naqvi said to the lawyer, asking him if it was the first time that he was appearing in the court.
"I come here everyday to express my love for you," Dogar responded.
The judge assured Dogar that whatever would happen in the court would be according to the law and he should not think that the judges were in the court with an agenda.
The petitioner's lawyer, Advocate Azhar Siddique, informed the court that he had asked the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) multiple times to ensure contemptuous speeches were not aired on television.
He said that he presented contemptuous statements to Pemra's council of complaints on being summoned.
"Why does Pemra not prevent contemptuous speeches from being aired?" Justice Naqvi inquired from Pemra secretary Sohail Asif, who was present in the court for the hearing.
He remarked that Pemra has a mechanism through which it can stop contemptuous material before it's even aired. "On what basis do you give show cause notices to channels everyday?"
The judge also asked why the acting chairman of the regulatory authority, Ashfaq Jumani, had not appeared for the hearing despite being summoned.
"He is in the head office," Asif responded, at which the court ordered Jumani to appear in personal capacity in the next hearing.
The court also ordered that all the alleged contemptuous material be presented in the next hearing, set for April 11.
Following the Panamagate verdict, Sharif and other PML-N leaders have drawn ire for their criticism of the judiciary.
Multiple petitions have been filed in different courts against them over alleged contempt of court.
In January, the Islamabad High Court had accepted a contempt of court petition against Sharif and his daughter Maryam for making speeches critical of the judiciary.
The Supreme Court, however, dismissed multiple contempt of court petitions against the ousted PM last month, saying on one occasion: "Commenting cleanly on a [court] decision is the right of every citizen."
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