Stay against judicial powers to executive: Senior bureaucrats get contempt notices over non-compliance

Published August 27, 2020
CJ Khan regretted that the bureaucracy had ruined the system of the whole country. — File photo
CJ Khan regretted that the bureaucracy had ruined the system of the whole country. — File photo

LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Wednesday issued contempt notices to three senior bureaucrats for not ensuring compliance with a stay order against the exercise of judicial powers by executive officers in districts.

Earlier, during a lengthy hearing, the chief justice came down hard on the bureaucracy with Punjab Chief Secretary Jawad Rafiq, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Momin Agha and other officers in attendance.

Chief Justice Khan also showed displeasure to Punjab Advocate General (AG) Ahmad Awais for wrongly interpreting the court directions. He made it clear to the top provincial law officer that the judiciary controlled neither parliament nor the executive.

“The judiciary only interprets the law,” he said, adding that the advocate general had a great responsibility and he needed to speak very carefully.

“Do you want the court to order the sealing of the chief minister secretariat? What if the court sends the chief secretary and additional chief secretary (home) to jail?” the chief justice asked the AG.

Responding to the hard-hitting queries of the court, Mr Agha said that the impugned notification was issued without a summary.

However, CJ Khan rejected the claim and observed that efforts were being made to protect the real culprits who drafted the faulty summary and approved it. He noted that all the responsibility was being placed on a single person, while the chief minister and the chief secretary were being shielded.

Mr Agha admitted that the office of the advocate general and law department were not consulted while issuing the notification. He said the special secretary (home) and deputy secretary (judicial) had drafted the notification.

CJ Khan regretted that the bureaucracy had ruined the system of the whole country. He asked the AG whether the chief minister also committed contempt of court by approving the summary for the impugned notification. He remarked that there should not be any misconception in anyone’s mind that the responsible will escape justice.

Mr Agha tendered an unconditional apology and said the impugned notification had been withdrawn. He requested the chief justice not to issue contempt notices.

Senior lawyer Khalid Ranjha, on behalf of the chief secretary, also pleaded to the chief justice for clemency.

“We came to get relief, but we are being punished,” said Mr Ranjha, adding that it was a day of apology for the government. He said the chief secretary also filed an unconditional apology.

Chief Justice Khan said there was a Punjabi saying that essentially meant, first you slap before the public and later seek an apology in a room.

The CJ reminded Mr Agha that he will be given ample opportunity of hearing and his apology will be published in the media.

The chief justice issued contempt notices to Mr Agha, Special Secretary (Home) Muhammad Iqbal and Deputy Secretary (Judicial) Imran Munir.

The hearing was adjourned for two weeks and the advocate general was asked to assist the court on the questions raised during Wednesday’s hearing.

The court had already issued contempt notices to the Sheikhupura deputy commissioner and Muridke assistant commissioner for exercising judicial powers after the court suspended the notification.

Tanvir Abdullah had filed a petition through Barrister Momin Malik pleading that under the Constitution and prevalent law, the executive and judiciary were two separate entities and they could not interfere in each other’s affairs.

However, the Punjab government on June 17 granted powers of first class magistrate to the commissioner and deputy commissioners in violation of law.

The counsel argued that the impugned notification was ultra vires of articles 2 and 9 of the Constitution as well as Section 14-A of Code of Criminal Procedure 1898. He said as per judgements of the superior courts, the executive could not exercise judicial powers.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2020

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