SC’s verdict on contempt law

The judiciary should be held accountable, much like any other pillar of the state.

Editorial August 03, 2012

We see spread out before us a labyrinth that is, as things look now, virtually impossible to negotiate. Parliament and the Supreme Court have clashed directly with the latter on Friday striking down the new Contempt of Court law passed by parliament (in one hour and eight minutes) less than a month ago. The new law, as some members representing the government have conceded, was intended to protect the prime minister from meeting the same unfortunate fate as his predecessor and stated that a person holding public office could not be held in contempt. For that very reason, and because it was a political ploy by the PPP, the apex court’s verdict of August 3 was quite expected.

The question asked by the Supreme Court as to how one treatment could be meted out to one prime minister and a different kind to another is a valid one. But the whole issue raises the point of how the Constitution is to be treated and where final authority in this matter lies. The law in question was blatantly intended to suit the PPP-led government’s own interests. When going through with the new law, the ruling party knew the path would be opened up for greater confrontation with the judiciary and this is precisely what has happened. No well-wisher of Pakistan would have wanted this situation to emerge but it has. It is uncertain how we are to weave our way out of this maze with its many obstacles and dead ends.

One also needs to consider that even with the old contempt law in place, there is a question on some people’s minds and it is not entirely an irrelevant one. It has to do with holding the judiciary accountable, much like any other pillar of the state. The perception that politicians are singled out for criticism in a country like Pakistan, with generals and judges considered holy cows, keeps on getting reinforced. As for the generals, they should be considered equal under the law and by the courts. And as far as the judges are concerned, there is the Supreme Judicial Council but it is headed by the chief justice of Pakistan so it can be argued that this accountability mechanism, insofar as the country’s judiciary is concerned, is not entirely transparent.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.


gp65 | 11 years ago | Reply

@Lala Gee: "This law was destined to be doomed the day it was enacted because it was so against the basic principles of justice and provisions of the constitution. This law in fact made a few hundred selected people above the law paving way for unabated corruption and plunder. I wonder if this government of PPP is capable of doing anything but corruption."

If there were some clauses that were unconstitutional, those clauses could have been thrown out giving specific reference to the clauses in constitution that were violated in the judgment instead of throwing out the entire law by making a global statement that it is unconstitutional.

gp65 | 11 years ago | Reply

@Lala Gee: "The intellectual level of some of the commentators is unbelievable. Court cannot prosecute anyone by themselves even if they wish to do so. It is the responsibility of the executive to prosecute someone i.e. lodge FIR, investigate, collect evidence, and argue case in the courts of law."

But court can and does set up commissions where it puts executive nominees on the dock e.g. memogate. When you look at the meogate judgment - based on othing other than unsubstantiated testimony of a foreign citizen who is openly anti-Pakistan, you really have to wonder.

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