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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday closed the contempt of court case against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader Muhammad Tallal Chaudhry but directed him to remain present in the court when his fate would be determined.

A three-judge SC bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed explained that the court was not fixing any date for the announcement of the verdict as defence counsel Kamran Murtaza requested it to decide the case after the general elections.

The counsel cited a number of judgements to establish that the Supreme Court had always exercised judicial restraint by ignoring even the harshest comments or statements made in intemperate language.

He cited the 2013 judgement in a case initiated against Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan for using the word “Sharamnak” (shameful) in which the Supreme Court had determined the principles of showing judicial restraint.

Defence counsel requests apex court to decide the case after general elections

Likewise, he added, Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Tahirul Qadri had also cast contemptuous and uncalled for aspersions at the the apex court, but it again exercised restraint even though both Mr Khan and Mr Qadri had not tendered apologies.

Referring to the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003, the counsel emphasised that the benefit of the doubt always went in favour of the contemnor, and not to the prosecution and that like Imran Khan, Tallal Chaudhry was also a parliamentarian.

Mr Murtaza argued that the grace of courts never got belittled when it exercised restraint and recalled that recently the Supreme Court had dismissed contempt of court cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique by stating that courts should ignore such statements by showing restraint.

The counsel also highlighted a 1978 case in which Khan Wali Khan had uttered contemptuous words against the judiciary. He said that although the apex court had reprimanded former army chief Gen Aslam Beg, it showed judicial restraint in the case.

When Justice Faisal Arab observed that the court had reprimanded the former army chief, the counsel said his client was ready to be also reprimanded.

Referring to the statement of Tallal Chaudhry regarding “Baba Rehmatay”, the counsel read out the entire statement and argued that nothing contemptuous was said against the judiciary.

About the reference to PCO judges, he cited a case of Hanif Rahi who had moved a petition against the late Saeed-uz-zaman Siddiqui for making derogatory remarks while mentioning the PCO judges, but the court again exercised restraint.

Had the contempt proceedings been not initiated, no one in the country would have known what was said about the PCO judges during the Jan 27, 2018, Jaranwala public meeting, the counsel added.

Mr Murtaza also pointed out that during the 26-day Faizabad sit-in, Khadim Rizvi had committed the gravest contempt against judges, but the apex court ignored it and did not initiate any proceedings against the cleric.

The initiation of contempt proceedings against Tallal Chaudhry under Articles 204 and 184(3) of the Constitution was also not proper, the counsel argued, adding that the Supreme Court’s decision would always be remembered and cited if his client was pardoned. He said the decision concerned the future of Mr Chaudhry because he might be sent to jail and also disqualified for five years under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution.

The counsel said the decision to initiate the contempt of court proceedings by the chief justice on a suo motu was in fact an administrative decision and thus not proper because judicial decisions could only be taken by the court, and not the chief justice. Instead of taking the decision, the chief justice should have referred the matter to a court to decide whether or not to initiate the contempt of court proceedings.

At this, Justice Ahmed observed that the chief justice was in charge of the roster and the one who decided the benches and fixed the cases.

The counsel argued that the chief justice was not sitting as a court when he decided to initiate the contempt proceedings against Tallal Chaudhry, adding that show-cause and contempt charges were defective and lacunas could not be filled by only punishing his client.

Additional Attorney General Chaudhry Amir Rehman argued that Tallal Chaudhry should be punished like Daniyal Aziz and Nehal Hashmi because he had committed the gravest contempt of the court. He said the Contempt of Court Ordinance provided the suo motu jurisdiction to the apex court to take cognisance in criminal matters.

He said whatever Mr Chaudhry stated was made in the public gathering and was thus a loud and clear message which deserved the gravest punishment.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2018