Contempt ruling

Published March 2, 2024

AN Islamabad High Court decision penalising the city’s deputy commissioner, a senior superintendent of police and a station house officer for violating court orders seems to be cause for some end-of-the-week hope after a dreary February. The court has held DC Irfan Nawaz Memon, SSP Jameel Zafar and SHO Naseer Manzoor guilty of contempt of court for issuing and executing multiple detention orders under the MPO ordinance despite having been ordered not to by the IHC. The Islamabad DC has been handed a six-month prison sentence, the SSP a four-month sentence, and the SHO a two-month sentence for contempt of court. All three have also been fined Rs100,000 each. The court of Justice Babar Sattar not only provided ample opportunity to the defendants to make their case during proceedings, but has also suspended their sentences for a month to give them a chance to appeal. It is uncommon for civil administration officials to face consequences for their excesses, which is why the judgement is being hailed as a positive development, more so since the executive has been behaving lately as if it is above the reach of the law.

The defiance shown by the Islamabad Police in response to the verdict is a clear symptom of the malaise. It seems there is a sense of complete impunity prevalent among those who routinely overstep their bounds in their zeal to exercise unlawful control over the people of Pakistan. Lawyers and observers have been outraged by the institution’s announcement on X (formerly Twitter) that Islamabad Police officers will have the judgement struck down through an intra-court appeal and that the three men will continue to work as usual till a final decision is reached. From the looks of it, the ICT Police seems to consider the court’s judgement an ‘affront’ that can be disregarded on a whim. One is tempted to recall the infamous ‘notification is rejected’ tweet from a few years ago. Islamabad Police should realise that this is inexcusable posturing: obeying and enforcing court orders is not optional. With such attitudes prevailing at the top, it is clear why the police officers convicted of contempt had paid little heed to earlier orders and believed there would be no consequences for their unlawful actions. This culture of impunity needs to end.

Published in Dawn, March 2nd, 2024

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