ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday formally charged Rawalpindi-based cleric Mirza Iftikharuddin with contempt of court by delivering a derogatory and scandalous speech against the judiciary which went viral on social media.

The court indicted the cleric under Section 5 of the Contempt of the Court Ordinance, 2003, after rejecting the unconditional apology he had tendered for making the objectionable speech in a private gathering.

A two-judge Supreme Court bench consisting of Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan had initiated hearing on a suo motu notice on a video clip which become viral on social media containing contemptuous language against the institution of the judiciary and judges.

At the last hearing on June 26 the Supreme Court had issued a notice to Mr Iftikharuddin for hurling abuses against Justice Qazi Faez Isa as well as the institution of the judiciary.

On the basis of the video clip, the wife of Justice Isa had lodged a complaint before the Police Station Secretariat Islamabad on June 24, saying that death threats were being hurled at Justice Isa.

Rejects suspect’s unconditional apology

Why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against the cleric for uttering scandalous statements, says the show-cause notice.

Mr Iftikharuddin who was represented through his counsel Ms Sarkar Abbas is required to furnish a reply within a week.

Section 5 of the contempt law suggests a punishment which may extend to six months simple imprisonment or a fine which may extend to Rs100,000 for committing contempt of the court.

During the hearing Advocate Kabir Hashmi appeared at the rostrum to seek permission for placing a letter of Justice Isa’s wife before the bench. But the court refused to accept the same and asked the counsel to furnish the letter in a proper manner through the registrar office. The court also discouraged another counsel to become a party on behalf of two private television anchors in the case.

“The language used while sitting on the pulpit does not even get used in the streets,” Justice Ahsan regretted, wondering whether such language could be called civilised and whether tendering of apology was enough after using such language. The apology has been tendered after receiving the court notice, Justice Ahsan said.

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan also contented before the court that the cleric had tried to damage the reputation of the judiciary.

During the hearing Advocate Abbas pleaded before the court to accept the unconditional apology since his client was a cardiac patient with clogged arteries, but the CJP wondered why his arteries never clogged when he was indulging in the fiery discourse. There was no room for mercy, the CJP observed.

People become dizzy when a notice from the Supreme Court comes, Justice Ahsan observed.

The counsel contended that his client did not have the idea about the severity of the statement, adding he was speaking at a private meeting.

Justice Ahsan recalled the suspect made the speech after Maghrib prayers inside a mosque in the presence of six or seven persons.

The court noted that the claim that the speech was uploaded without his permission need further probe besides the tendering of the apology itself was an acceptance of the offence. The court also questioned the veracity of the apology, saying it lacked legal formalities.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020

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