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Nisar urges judges to review their remarks

Published Jul 26, 2012 10:01pm

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. — File photo

ISLAMABAD, July 26: Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan sharply reacted on Thursday to remarks made by some Supreme Court judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, about opposition’s role in parliament during the adoption of a bill to amend the contempt of court law and said the observations were “disappointing, unfair, unjust and beyond comprehension”.

“The honourable judges venting their feelings against the opposition should enlighten us where exactly the opposition erred in coming up to their expectations,” a statement issued by the PML-N leader from London said.

Chaudhry Nisar expressed the hope that the judges would “review” their comments. “Such sweeping and one-sided statements do not strengthen the dignity of the Supreme Court nor do they ensure fairness and justice in an environment where justice is the need of the hour.”

He said: “While making these observations, the honourable judges should also have the trouble to elaborate how the opposition with 90 members in a house of 342 could have stopped the passage of the bill short of snatching it from the minister’s hands and creating a violent scene.”

He particularly “expressed his amazement” at the reported comments of a judge that the opposition had violated the people’s mandate by staging walkout.“How can such a statement be made about a party which has over the years often single-handedly raised aloft the banner for a free judiciary and rule of law in Pakistan?”

He said the PML-N being the only opposition party not only “stood steadfast against the government’s efforts to amend the contempt law but used every political, legal and parliamentary avenue to prevent the government from bulldozing the bill through the assembly”.

While hearing 27 identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act, 2012, the Supreme Court had observed on Wednesday that the opposition should have resisted the passage of the law in parliament instead of walking out.

The chief justice, who is heading the five-judge bench, said the opposition should have stayed in parliament to resist the ruling party’s move.

“Have you ever heard of a walkout from the US Congress; what kind of conduct is this,” Justice Tasaddaq Hussain Jilani said.

Justice Khilji Arif Hussain went to the extent of describing walkouts as an injustice with the electorate.

“Our members made speeches, filibustered, protested, shouted and did everything short of taking up bamboo sticks in their hands to prevent the passage of the bill,” the opposition leader said.

“If the government, having the support of over 200 members, is hell-bent on bulldozing a bill at all costs, there is little the opposition can do more than walking out.

“For the information of honourable judges, walkout is the ultimate and most extreme form of dissent in parliamentary practice.

In most developed countries the government does not carry out legislation in the absence of the opposition,” he said.

The PML-N leader explained that the opposition had no option but to walk out and disassociate itself from the “entire unethical exercise” when the government was not willing to give time to it for normal discussion on the bill and was insisting on passing it the same day through its brute majority. “By all parliamentary and democratic standards, legislation carried out in the absence of the opposition is more questionable and controversial than legislation bulldozed in the presence of the opposition in a house,” he said.

“For honourable judges to pass sarcastic and less than accurate comments over the walkout without understanding parliamentary norms and practices is not only unfair and unjust, but also beyond comprehension.”

Chaudhry Nisar said that in an environment where the government was engaged in single-minded propaganda against the judiciary for interfering and trying to manage everything under the sun, “these comments by the judges will play right into its hands”.