Firebrand PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry sentenced for contempt of court

Published August 2, 2018
Former minister Talal Chaudhry waves as he leaves the SC building in Islamabad. —AP
Former minister Talal Chaudhry waves as he leaves the SC building in Islamabad. —AP

The Supreme Court on Thursday held PML-N leader Talal Chaudhry in contempt of court, and sentenced him till the rising of the court, effectively rendering him disqualified to contest elections for a period of five years, DawnNewsTV reported.

During his speech at a PML-N rally in Jarranwala in January 2018, Chaudhry 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."

In the same speech, Chaudhry said: "Mian Nawaz Sharif, throw them out, throw him out of the court. They will not give justice but will continue their injustices."

The three-judge bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed, disposing of the case, handed him a Rs100,000 fine and sentenced him till the rising of the court.

In its detailed verdict, penned by Justice Ahmed, the bench noted that Chaudhry in his two speeches [Jarranwala and Faisalabad] — as have been reproduced in order to show his "unfaltering allegiance to Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, who as Prime Minister of Pakistan and was ousted from office by the judgment rendered by this Court in Panama case" — "has uttered words seriously prejudicing the office" of the Chief Justice of Pakistan and the judges of the Supreme Court.

"Ultimately, the whole Court as an Institution and his utterances were not at all or within the ambit of the decency, morality and decorum but showed utter venom for which he himself has no cause of his own," the judgement added.

"The alleged contemnor in his two speeches has not only abused the judges of this Court but has scandalized the Court and did everything to bring the Court into hatred, ridicule and contempt, which is substantially detrimental to the administration of justice and scandalises the Court and tends to bring the Court and judges of the Court into hatred and ridicule."

The court concluded that Chaudhry has "committed contempt of Court within the meaning of Article 204 of the Constitution read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 and made himself liable for punishment. Thus he is convicted and sentenced under Sections 3 & 5 of the Ordinance, 2003 and punished with imprisonment till the rising of the Court with fine of Rs100,000".

Legal observers believe that Chaudhry stands disqualified from contesting elections for five years under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, as he has now been convicted. The article says: "A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen a member of the parliament if he has been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction for propagating any opinion or acting in any manner prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan, or the sovereignty, integrity or security of Pakistan, or the integrity or independence of the judiciary of Pakistan or which defames or brings into ridicule the judiciary or the armed forces of Pakistan."

Charged with contempt

On February 1, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar had taken suo motu notice of "contemptuous speeches", and on February 6, the top court issued Chaudhry a show-cause notice, ordering him to file his response.

On July 11, the apex court, after hearing Chaudhry's arguments, had closed the case and reserved its judgement, which it delivered today.

The verdict in the contempt case against Chaudhry, and his subsequent disqualification for five years, is similar to that of his fellow PML-N leader and former privatisation minister Daniyal Aziz.

Talal Chaudhry, while speaking to the media outside the SC today, claimed that the "sword hanging over his head" in the form of the contempt case had negatively impacted his poll performance.

Chaudhry had contested the General Election from NA-102 (Faisalabad-II) but lost to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's Nawab Shair by almost 12,000 votes.

He claimed that the people in his district "had difficulties making a decision", and that his opponents had taken advantage of the opportunity by campaigning on his expected disqualification.

"My opponents conducted a one-point election campaign ─ that I will become ineligible, so they shouldn’t vote for me. Because of this, my election results were affected."

"If this decision had been made earlier, then my party would have had a chance to select another candidate who didn’t have this kind of hanging sword over his head. The results could have been even better," he claimed.

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