ISLAMABAD, June 4: The Supreme Court on Monday turned down federal government’s request for initiating contempt of the court proceedings against the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) for defaming the judiciary and military at a seminar, but proposed a full court comprising all judges in case the government filed a proper petition instead of mere complaint through an application.

A three-member bench, comprising Justice Mohammad Nawaz Abbasi, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan and Justice Tassadduq Hussain Jillani, took up the complaint of Interior Secretary Syed Kamal Shah as well as a contempt of court petition on alleged derogatory remarks against the government, military and senior judges during a seminar on “Separation of powers and judicial independence” held at the Supreme Court auditorium on May 26.

In its May 28 letter, the interior ministry had protested against what it termed use of derogatory and provocative political speeches made by some of the speakers.

An interior ministry spokesman also accused senior lawyers of violating the Supreme Court directives and recalled that Acting Chief Justice Rana Bhagwandas had allowed the use of auditorium on the condition that the occasion would not be used for political speeches or character assassination.

President Pervez Musharraf in his address to army officers at the Jhelum Garrison had described the tone and language used at the seminar as ‘humiliating’ because the speeches made and slogans raised were an ‘assault’ on the armed forces and the apex court.

The Supreme Court reconstituted the special bench to three members from five when two judges — Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokhar and Justice Saiyed Saeed Asshad -- opted out of it on Sunday.

The bench assembled after the proceedings of a 13-member larger bench hearing the petition of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry challenging the filing of a reference against him on misconduct. The government side was not represented when the bench took up the matter.

The three-member bench directed the interior secretary to file a petition in a proper way with a concise statement if it wanted to proceed against the speakers of the seminar under the contempt of court rules and held that no such request (to initiate contempt proceedings) had been made by the government in the application.

The court also referred to a talk show on a private television channel titled “Aaj Kamran Khan ke saath” and directed the television management to submit the record of the programme in due course of time. In the programme, Sindh High Court Bar president Abrar Hussain conceded that some objectionable speeches had been made at the seminar and expressed the hope that it would not be repeated.

In view of the importance of the case involving sensitive questions against a constitutional institution, the petition, if filed by the government, be fixed before the full court consisting of full strength of the Supreme Court (18 judges minus the chief justice), the order said.

Meanwhile, petitioner Shahid Orakzai withdrew his contempt petition to resubmit it after the court held that the petition against the SCBA was not maintainable since no individual had been impleaded in it as a contemner.

In criminal matters, contemners were ought to be identified as contempt proceedings against a body was not possible, Justice Nawaz Abbasi observed.

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