While questioning the passage of the new Contempt of Court Act 2012 by parliament, the Supreme Court on Wednesday had a few words for the opposition: what was the point of a walkout?
While hearing identical petitions against the new act on Wednesday, a five-member bench, headed by the chief justice, said the opposition should have resisted the act’s passage in parliament instead of staging a walk-out.
“The opposition should have stayed in parliament to resist the ruling party’s move,” observed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
“Have you ever heard of a walk-out from the US Congress; what kind of conduct is this?” Justice Tasaddaq Hussain Jilani remarked.
The court also obtained a record of parliamentary proceedings to see the time consumed in the debate on the act.
It was presented during Wednesday’s hearing by federation’s counsel Abdul Shakoor Paracha.
‘Constitution does not allow ridiculing the court’
Chief Justice Chaudhry further questioned that if the prime minister has no immunity for contempt proceedings despite Article 248 (1), how could it be extended to the president or governor under Article 248 (2).
Quoting examples of former US presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, he said that no one could violate the order of a magistrate’s court, adding that the Constitution does not allow ridiculing the court in the name of immunity.
Just as the attorney general stood up from his seat to reply, the court asked him to address the question on his turn.
Justice Jilani termed contempt of court powers as the only tool in the hands of the judiciary to enforce its judgments.
“We respect the parliament. They are representatives of the people. We do not have inflated ego. We are just worried about the system,” Justice Tasaddaq Jilani said.
Meanwhile, Advocate AK Dogar, the counsel for one of the petitioners, described the contempt act as a “stillborn” piece of legislation, elaborating that it was a constitutionally dead law. “Judges would become paper tigers, unless the judiciary has a sword and a shield in its hands,” he said.
Advocate Abdul Rahman Siddiqui, appearing on behalf of another petitioner, said the act was a mala fide legislation, enacted without a proper debate. He said that in a way the entire parliament was made hostage and its independence usurped.
The chief justice, however, told him that such a grievance, if existed, could only be raised by a member of the parliament.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2012.
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