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ISLAMABAD, June 13: In a move which people had not anticipated, a special bench of the Supreme Court sat after normal court timings on Wednesday to issue a show-cause notice to property tycoon Malik Riaz for hurling allegations at Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry at his press conference on Tuesday.

The bench comprising Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Amir Hani Muslim summoned Malik Riaz to appear on Thursday to explain what he had said in the media interaction.

The move is seen by many legal observers as an attempt on the part of the judiciary to counter the campaign which has put the institution of the Supreme Court in an awkward position, especially after allegations of financial wrongdoings by Dr Arsalan Iftikhar, son of the chief justice.

When asked whether he would be appearing for Mr Riaz in the contempt matter, Advocate Zahid Bokhari told Dawn that he would appear on Thursday before a bench which had taken up the case of Dr Arsalan, but not before the bench that would hear the contempt case.

“This is not true, but I will prefer not to comment on,” was the straight answer when asked again whether he had distanced himself from Tuesday’s press conference of Mr Riaz. Meanwhile, a hurriedly moved petition by former president of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association Chaudhry Muhammad Ashraf Gujjar was also placed before the bench, but the petitioner in a verbal pleading requested the court to order placing the name of Mr Riaz on the Exit Control List.

“He (Riaz) has a private jet and he can escape any time from the country,” Mr Gujjar said, but the court preferred to issue show-cause notice to Mr Riaz only on suo motu notice.

The notice was issued under Article 204 of the Constitution (contempt of court) read with Section 3 and 17 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance of 2003, Supreme Court Rules 1980 and all other enabling provisions in the law.

Section 3 of the contempt law mainly deals with the definition of the contempt case while Section 17 is about the procedures suggesting how to move with such matters.

The court notice was taken on a note put up by Supreme Court Registrar Dr Faqir Hussain annexing Urdu transcript of whatever Malik Riaz had said at his news conference.

That statement was also read out by Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan from the very beginning till the end and then after consulting his brother judges pronounced that prima facie Mr Riaz’s press conference amounted to contempt of court on the charges of scandalising the court and bringing it and its judges into hatred, ridicule, lowering the authority of the Supreme Court and also showing disrespect to the institution.

The press conference has also caused obstruction in the administration of justice because of the pending cases relating to Bahria Town.

Full court

In another development, the apex court issued a new roster for the judges sitting in different branch registries of the Supreme Court in other cities by constituting six benches at the principal seat, Islamabad.

Instead of hearing the cases in their respective cities, the judges will hear different cases in Islamabad in six different benches.

After the normal proceedings all the 17 judges of the Supreme Court will go for a closed-door conclave mainly to repose confidence in the chief justice, according to legal experts, and to discuss all aspects of the current situation, particularly the allegations levelled by Mr Riaz implicating Dr Arsalan for blackmailing and running an extortion racket to get the property tycoon favourable decisions in pending Bahria cases.