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Asma opposes frequent use of contempt law

LAHORE, July 20: Supreme Court Bar Association’s former president Ms Asma Jahangir has said frequent use of contempt of court law may expose the courts to more criticism.

She was talking to media persons at South Asia Free Media Association office on Friday about changes made to contempt of court law and likely removal of dual nationality bar on parliamentarians.

The eminent lawyer and rights activist said the courts should show restraint and avoid frequent use of contempt law, saying, “This will make the judiciary more prone to public criticism,” she added.

Ms Jahangir went on to say that under the same law the restored judiciary sent sitting judges and a prime minister home. She further said that the changes to the law had diminished its efficacy.

Ms Jahangir was of the view that to remove the bar on public office holders having dual nationality, a constitutional amendment was required to be introduced. However, she said, past experiences showed that any law introduced to favour an individual could not survive for long.

Replying to a question, she expressed her reservations on some provisions of the new law. She objected to the immunity granted to all public office holders/ministers against contempt of court proceedings in the new law, saying this relaxation might lead to anarchy in the country.

Ms Jahangir said it was useless to debate that whether the parliament was supreme or the judiciary. Both institutions had their separate roles described in the Constitution, she added.

She said the parliament had the power to legislate but the Supreme Court could strike down any legislation if found contrary to the Constitution. Many provisions of the new law were in clear violation of Article 19-A of the Constitution which protected citizen’s right to information, she said.