Judges not immune from public criticism: IHC

Justice Minallah declares contempt plea against Maryam Nawaz, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi 'inadmissible'


Our Correspondent November 26, 2021
Former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday dismissed the petition seeking contempt of court proceedings against Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders Maryam Nawaz and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, declaring it inadmissible.

Earlier today, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had reserved the judgment on the matter.

The petitioner appears to be offended by criticism of the former chief justice, the court observed in the detailed order later issued. "Criticism of the former chief justice does not fall under contempt of court," it added.

The written verdict stated that the contempt of court law was not for the protection of judges but for the protection of parties to the case.

“A judges' job is to provide justice, and judges are not immune from public criticism,” the verdict stated. “An independent judge is never affected by criticism.”

The verdict further stated that contempt of court proceedings were conducted exclusively in the public interest.

“A judge becomes a private person after retirement,” it stated. “After retirement, the judge does not remain part of any court. Contempt of court does not constitute defamation of a private person.”

The verdict added that there were other provisions in the law to protect the honour of private persons.

“The former chief justice has been criticised in his personal capacity,” it said. “Personal criticism cannot be prosecuted for contempt. [Therefore], the application is declared inadmissible and dismissed.”

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During the proceedings earlier, Justice Minallah stated that a retired official, even if a former chief justice, was not above criticism.

The counsel for the petitioner maintained that what was said in the press conference against former CJP Saqib Nisar was tantamount to committing contempt of court.

Justice Athar Minallah reserved the judgment regarding admissibility of the petition after hearing the arguments of the petitioner's counsel

“A person directly affected by the matter can file a defamation suit themselves,” Justice Minallah had remarked during the hearing.

The petitioner further stated that the matter of issuing a show-cause notice to journalist Ansar Abbasi was also pending before the court.

“That is a separate case and should not be associated with this application,” Justice Minallah asserted. “The first thing is that judges are open-minded about criticism. Judges hold a very high position and criticism should be welcomed.”

Earlier, the PML-N vice president had demanded that former chief justice Saqib Nisar should tell the nation as to who had “pressured” him to convict her and her father, former premier Nawaz Sharif, in the wake of the recent surfacing of an audio leak of the ex-top judge.

“This [case of] judicial interference in the fifth testimony in favour of my father,” she told reporters at a news conference accompanied by other party leaders.

"Either today or tomorrow, you will have to tell the nation the truth. There is still time,” she added.

“It’s about time that Saqib Nisar and [former ISI chief and now the Peshawar corps commander] Lt Gen Faiz Hameed stopped hiding behind institutions.”

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