Within a day of its final approval, two petitions were filed in the Supreme Court’s Lahore and Quetta registry on Friday challenging the new contempt of court law.
A three-judge bench of the apex court’s Quetta registry, comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain and Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, heard petitions filed by Baz Muhammad Kakar, a senior Supreme Court lawyer and former president of the Balochistan Bar Association (BBA), and Manzoor Bangulzai, general secretary BBA.
The petition claimed that the law was contrary to the Constitution and it aimed at benefiting certain elite personalities.
Senior lawyer of Supreme Court Athar Minallah said the petition invoked the jurisdiction of the court under article 184(3) of the Constitution. He said that the Contempt of Court Act is a breach of the fundamental rights of the petitioners and the public at large.
The petition stated that the parliamentary act violates the provisions of articles 2, 8, 14, 24 an 204 of the Constitution. Additionally, it maintained that articles 8, 14 and 25 of the Constitution guarantee equal rights for all citizens while the new law shields the elite.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry forwarded the notice to the attorney general and law secretary to explain the Contempt of Court Act, 2012.
The court adjourned the case till July 23 in Islamabad.
Another writ-petition was filed by Mohammad Azhar Siddiqui in the Supreme Court, Lahore registry, which claimed that the Contempt of Court Act 2012 was enacted to protect certain political leaders.
It stated that the former and incumbent prime ministers have declared that they would not obey the SC’s orders and would not write a letter to the Swiss authorities.
When the legislation moved in the National Assembly, the opposition observed that it aimed to reduce the powers of the superior judiciary and save the incumbent prime minister, leading to a rift between the two institutions. However, it was passed in the Senate by a majority vote despite opposition from some treasury members.
The petition terms the bill ‘ultra vires’ or beyond the provisions of the Constitution, which states that access to an independent judiciary is a fundamental right of every citizen.
The petition declares that the law was accepted by the chief executive and president of the country in order to destabilise, undermine and shake the foundations of the Constitution. Furthermore, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf used Parliament to pass the bill to their advantage and abused the powers vested in them by the people.
The petition described the law as an ‘ugly attempt’ to undermine the Constitution and “squarely falls within the definition of treason” as stated in article 6 of the Constitution. It also violates articles 2, 2A, 3, 4, 9, 25, 37, 38 and 175 of the Constitution.
Additionally, the provisions of article 248 do not grant any immunity to any person irrespective of his/her status against a crime committed by him/her, it added.
The petitioner urged the court strike it down due to it being ‘ultra vires’ to the Constitution.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2012.