A day after real-estate magnate Malik Riaz unleashed a salvo of serious allegations against the judiciary, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and his son in particular, the Supreme Court took notice of his ‘explosive’ news conference.
The apex court issued a show-cause notice to Malik Riaz on Wednesday to appear before it today (Thursday) for ‘scandalising and ridiculing’ the judiciary.
The decision to take suo motu action, however, appears to have been deliberated upon a great deal – The benches arrived in the courtroom almost an hour late on Wednesday. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry discussed the matter in detail with other judges, and constituted a three-judge special bench to proceed with the matter.
Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan is the presiding judge, while Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Amir Hani Muslim are members of the bench that conducted the contempt proceedings against Riaz at around 3pm on Wednesday.
Justice Jan read out a script of Riaz’s explosive remarks at a press conference and held that prima facie, the interaction with the media amounts to contempt of court which he termed scandalising, bringing the apex court and its judges to ridicule, lowering the court’s authority and obstructing the administration of justice because of the pendency of his (Malik’s) cases before the Supreme Court.
The bench also made sure to make clear exactly under what charges the show-cause notice was issued to the real-estate tycoon.
“We issue a show cause notice to Riaz in terms of Article 204 of the Constitution of Pakistan read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 and related rules of Supreme Court and other provisions,” Justice Jan read out from the court’s decision. The judge also revealed that the suo motu was taken on the grounds of the SC registrar’s note, which was placed before the court and which provided the contents of the press conference addressed by Riaz.
Attorney General of Pakistan Irfan Qadir, on the other hand, insisted while talking to the media that no law pertaining to contempt of court exists in Pakistan, adding that the court can therefore punish nobody on such grounds – including the prime minister. Qadir said the prime minister was therefore convicted illegally.
Counsel washes his hands off conference
Malik Riaz’s counsel Zahid Bokhari was keen to dissociate himself from his client’s contentious revelations, saying on Wednesday that he was confining himself to the suo motu proceedings.
“I am his counsel in the Supreme Court and whatever he uttered at the press conference was purely his personal point of view,” he emphasised.
However, he added that Riaz’s press conference did not fall under the purview of contempt of court. He expressed these views while talking to reporters on the premises of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday.
Bokahri was of the view Justice Chaudhry should not have taken suo motu action of his son’s case.
“The chief justice should have let an investigation take place under the auspices of the Federal Investigation Agency or the National Accountability Bureau,” he said and tried to dispel the impression that Dr Arsalan Iftikhar’s case would cause a confrontation between state institutions.
(With additional reporting from our correspondent in Lahore)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.
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