QUETTA: The Supreme Court has admitted for hearing all petitions challenging the new contempt of court law adopted by the parliament early this week and which became an act on Thursday after the president’s assent.
A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, fixed July 23 for hearing all the petitions filed against the new law.
The date is significant since the petitions will be heard by the court two days before it takes up the NRO implementation case in which the government of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is required to state what it intends to do about the judiciary’s directive to write a letter to the Swiss government to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
It is generally believed that the government rushed through the new contempt law to protect the new prime minister from contempt proceedings.
On Friday, the SC bench decided to club together all petitions filed against the law and issued notices to the attorney general and the federation through the secretary of the ministry of law.
One of the petitions was filed in the Quetta registry by Baz Mohammad Kakar, former president of the Balochistan Bar Association, and Manzur Bangulzai, the incumbent general secretary.
The petition contends that the new contempt of court is a violation of Article 2A of the Constitution which ensures independence of judiciary and Articles 8, 14 and 25 which provide equal rights to citizens. It is also an attempt to reduce the powers of the Supreme Court.
After an initial hearing on the petition, the court issued the following order:
“This petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan calls in question the constitutionality of the Contempt of Court Act 2012 being inter alia in violation of Articles 2-A, 9, 14, 25, 204, etc, of the Constitution.
“The learned ASC has relied upon the term ‘any person’ used in Article 204(2) of the Constitution, and contended that sub-clause (i) of the proviso of Section 3 of the Act, 2012 curtails the power and the jurisdiction of the court to punish any person, who abuses, interferes with or obstructs the process of the court in any way or disobeys any order of the court. The classification of sub-clause (i) to the proviso to Section 3 of the Act, 2012 is violative of the Article 25 of the Constitution which guarantees equal protection of the laws.
“It is further contended that the Contempt of the Court Act, 2012 is also violative of the independence of the judiciary, guaranteed by Articles 2-A, 175 and 190 of the Constitution. It is also contended that the various provisions of Act, 2012 are in derogation/inconsistent with the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
“Let notice be issued to the respondent/federation as well as to the Attorney General for Pakistan in terms of Order 27-A CPC to examine inter alia the questions raised in the listed petition.
“Office is directed to club all such petitions, which are identical on the subject matter instituted before this court by different petitioners.
Notices in those petitions be also issued to the respondents and Attorney General in the same manner as it has been noted hereinabove.
“The respondent(s) and the Attorney General may file concise statements if advised and desired, before the next date of hearing and the pleadings shall be exchanged between the parties before the commencement of the hearing of the petitions. In view of the importance of the petition as it has been pointed out by the learned counsel for the petitioner in the application for the fixation of the case today and also taking into consideration the involvement of the interpretation of the Constitution, which allegedly touches to the independence of the judiciary, we direct let all these cases be fixed at Islamabad on 23rd July, 2012. All concerned be informed accordingly. Notice in C.M.A.No.3057 of 2012 be also issued for 23rd July, 2012.”