SC begins getting tough on anti-judiciary venom

Jails and disqualifies PML-N’s Nehal Hashmi and takes suo motu of Talal Chaudhry’s speeches

Hasnaat Malik February 02, 2018
A file photo of Senator Nehal Hashmi. PHOTO: EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday disqualified a ruling party senator for five years from being elected to any public office after finding him guilty of threatening judges in a speech last year.

The apex court in its verdict in the contempt case against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker Nehal Hashmi also sentenced him to one-month imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs50,000.

The court ruled that Hashmi stood disqualified from holding public office for a period of five years.

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The Supreme Court had served Hashmi with a contempt notice following a speech to workers in Karachi last year, in which he had threatened members of the Joint Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court to probe ousted premier Nawaz Sharif.

Hashmi had targeted 'enemies' of the former prime minister whose disqualification case was being heard by judges of the apex court at that time.

It seems the superior judiciary has finally decided to take on the PML-N leaders for delivering hate speeches against the judiciary, as Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took notice of contemptuous speeches of another PML-N parliamentarian and fixed the matter for hearing on February 6.

Minister of State for Interior Talal Chaudhry was summoned by the top court for criticising the judiciary and saying that it allegedly failed to deliver ‘justice’ in the Panamagate case.

Action sought against anti-judiciary rant

In its order in Hashmi’s case, the top court has disqualified Senator Nehal Hashmi from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament) for a period of five years for delivering hate speeches on May 28 last year against judges.

After restoration of former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, from March 2009 to December 2013, the superior judiciary was quite sensitive with regard to any criticism against it.

A number of contempt notices were issued to senior politicians, journalists, and even PCO judges over charges of scandalising and ridiculing the judiciary.

During this period criticism of the bench became a somewhat no-go area. However, no one was convicted on the charge of scandalising the judiciary during his era.

Unlike people’s expectations, the apex court on Thursday rejected unconditional apology and convicted Hashmi in the contempt case.

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A senior lawyer says that it is for the first time that the court rejected apology and convicted anyone.

The three-judge bench, headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa and comprising Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, issuing the written order, also sent Hashmi behind bar for one month.

However, Justice Khan did not endorse the judgment.

It is learnt that Hashmi through his counsel Kamran Murtaza has moved an appeal against the Supreme Court’s order.

Likewise, he also sought bail in the matter.

“With a consensus of two members of the bench and with one member of the bench (Dost Muhammad Khan, J) abstaining, Senator Nehal Hashmi respondent is convicted for the offence under Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 (Ordinance No. V of 2003) read with Article 204(2) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 and is sentenced under Section 5(1) of the said ordinance to simple imprisonment for one month and a fine of Rs50,000 (Rupees fifty thousand only) or in default of payment thereof to undergo simple imprisonment for a further period of fifteen days. He is to be taken into custody and he shall be lodged in the Central Prison, Rawalpindi for serving his sentence,” says the written order.

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The order further states that as Hashmi has been convicted and sentenced by this court for acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity and independence of the judiciary of Pakistan and for defaming and bringing the judiciary into ridicule, therefore, by virtue of the law declared by this court in the case of Muhammad Azhar Siddique and others v. Federation of Pakistan and others (PLD 2012 SC 774) with reference to Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, he ipso facto stands disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) for a period of five years from today.

The copy of this judgment be sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan for an immediate appropriate action in that respect, the judgment adds.

The court observed that the belated apology submitted by Hashmi after about seven months of commencement of these proceedings and at the fag end of such proceedings when evidence of the prosecution has already been completely recorded and closed speaks volumes about the apology being an afterthought.

“The conduct of the respondent (Nehal) in this regard impinges upon bona fide of his apology and, thus, the same has not been found to be meriting acceptance. Such apology of the respondent may, however, have some bearing upon the sentence to be passed against him. In view of what has been observed above the respondent is held guilty of committing contempt of this Court as charged”

The court also noted that although the offending words publically uttered by the respondent, which words had received wide publicity nationally as well internationally, amounted to a grave contempt of this court yet there are some mitigating circumstances available warranting withholding the maximum sentence provided for the offence by the law.

“The respondent (Nehal) is about sixty years of age, he is an advocate for the last about thirty years, he has submitted an unconditional apology though belatedly, he has thrown himself at the mercy of the court and has decided not to contest these proceedings and upon his conviction for the offence of contempt of court he is to be visited with a disqualification under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution.”