New contempt law: PPP, PBC agree to revisit three clauses

Lawyers’ body has filed a petition in the SC suggesting the agreed changes.

Abdul Manan July 22, 2012


With the Supreme Court scheduled to take up petitions challenging the contempt of court act 2012 on Monday, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has approached a major stakeholder, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), to suggest changes to the contentious legislation.

The PBC, which will observe a ‘black day’ on Monday on the matter, has been told that its stance and suggested amendments to the law would be incorporated, top officials told The Express Tribune.

The sources in both the PPP and PBC told The Express Tribune said that both parties have agreed to resolve the matter after hectic negotiations. In this regard, the PBC filed a petition in the apex court on Saturday listing its objections to the law and suggesting changes.

The PBC and PPP are believed to have agreed to try to convince the court to refer the act back to parliament with the suggested changes.

PBC Chairman Akhtar Hussian, while talking to The Express Tribune, said that if the PPP accepts its objections on three articles, there could be a positive outcome. He voiced hoped that this would be the case, and the ruling party would also incorporate the court’s suggestions, if there are any. However, he hastened to add that no one knew what would happen in the duration of the hearings, and if the apex court simply struck down the bill entirely.

He said that every law formed by the house has a legal cover, so PBC regarded the new contempt act as being according to the law- for now.

The three points

According to Akhtar Hussain, the PBC has three objections: one is that it does not believe that immunity should be extended to so many high-office holders in government. Instead, he said, immunity should be given only to the president and four governors. He said that this article is in clear violation of Article 204 of the Constitution, which grants equality.

The second point is that PBC is against a ban of publication of in-camera proceedings.

He said that everyone has the right to access, and this was a clear violation of basic rights.

The third point is that court should have the power to proceed with contempt charges in order have its orders complied to.

In the new contempt law, courts have been stopped from proceeding until a final verdict is reached on the case and its appeal.

Akhtar Hussain further said that his office has filed a petition to this effect in the apex court, which would be heard on July 23.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Affairs Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, while talking to The Express Tribune, confirmed these developments, and welcomed the PBC’s recognizing of a law passed by parliament.

He said that the government is fully ready to bring the PBC’s objections into parliament for fresh approval. Fawad added that the PPP would also accord the same treatment to the court’s suggestions, if there were any.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.