Contempt of court law struck down as unconstitutional, illegal

Supreme Court

ISLAMABAD: Striking down the recently passed contempt of court law, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional and illegal,Media reported.

Reading out the verdict, the chief justice said that the new law was in conflict with Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution.The order moreover said that granting immunity to public office holders was in violation of the Constitution.It said the government did not have the authority to formulate the rules for contempt of court, adding that, the law was an attempt to curtail the independence of the judiciary.

Friday’s proceeding

Earlier today, the court had reserved its verdict after concluding the hearing of petitions.A five-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and including Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Jawad S Khawaja and Justice Tassadduq Hussain Jilani, had heard 27 identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act, 2012.During the hearing, Attorney General Irfan Qadir was presenting his arguments before the bench.

Addressing the bench, Qadir said he had utmost respect for the court and that the court “should not be displeased”.The attorney general moreover said that he could not afford to divert “even an inch away” from the Constitution.Upon which, Justice Khawaja said: “You end up moving two to three inches away from the Constitution”.“No, I have not moved away from the Constitution to even a centimetre,” Qadir said.Moreover, Justice Khilji said the new law failed to mention several terms pertaining to contempt of court.

To which, the attorney general said that if the new law was viewed in mathematical terms it would get complicated.Justice Khilji said the terms of ridicule, scandalisation and contempt of court were not present in many sections of the law.Responding to which, Qadir said: “It does not make a difference and the essence of the contempt remains in the new law.”He added: “Through the new law, the horizon of contempt of court has, in fact, been broadened.”

Chief Justice Iftikhar said that a law could not broaden a concept addressed in the Constitution, adding that, the new law even included magistrates in the definition of a judge.The attorney general said he had worked with a number of judges and that he had been told that a judge was a judge, even if it he/she was a magistrate.In his remarks, Justice Khawaja inquired as to why the former prime minister did not file an appeal against his conviction.Upon which, the attorney general said that Yousuf Raza Gilani made the right decision by not filing the appeal. – Dawn