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Parliament debate on new law under scrutiny in SC

July 26, 2012


ISLAMABAD, July 26: One of the petitioners challenging the new contempt law read out in the Supreme Court on Thursday relevant speeches made in the National Assembly and Senate during the debate on the law to establish that parliament had passed the law in haste.

Rawalpindi High Court Bar president Ahsanuddin Sheikh, the counsel for the Lahore High Court Bar Association, read out the speeches made in support of and against the Contempt of Court Act 2012.

A number of lawmakers, including Senators Haji Adeel and Azam Khan Hoti, had made scathing remarks against the judiciary as well as the chief justice in their speeches.

The day’s proceeding of the court was consumed by the speeches made in parliament which covered various subjects, from the new contempt law to supremacy, sovereignty and dignity of parliament to the alleged financial wrongdoings by Dr Arsalan Iftikhar and the recent statement of the chief justice about the supremacy of the Constitution and the law.

“Look how the parliament is treating the judiciary for the strengthening of which the Supreme Court went extra mile and said so much even in the shape of the famous 2009 judgment,” Advocate Sheikh regretted.

However, a five-judge bench which had taken up a set of identical challenges to the new contempt law explained that it had to uphold every provision of the Constitution, including Article 69 which barred the court from inquiring into the proceedings of parliament.

“Parliament is doing its defined job while the judiciary is doing its own,” observed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

“Are we favouring any institution, no,” said Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, adding that debates in parliament could not be challenged in any court of law.

Advocate Sheikh pointed out that it was being said outside that a constitutional crisis would engulf the entire country if the apex court struck down the new contempt law.

“We don’t decide on what is said outside. What happened outside the court’s doors does not bother us,” the chief justice said.

How could the new law enacted through a simple legislation repeal the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 which had been validated and given protection under Article 270 AA through the 17th Amendment, the counsel asked.

But he was told by the court that Article 270AA itself provided the repeal of law if revoked, amended or altered.

Advocate Sheikh argued that by providing the facility of appeal at every step of contempt proceedings by a larger bench comprising all judges, an attempt had been made to snatch the prerogative of the chief justice to constitute benches.

The bench asked the petitioners again to complete their arguments by Friday after which the court will request Attorney General Irfan Qadir and federal government’s counsel Shakoor Paracha to commence their arguments on Monday.