ISLAMABAD: Striking down the recently passed contempt of court law, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional and illegal.
Reading out the verdict, the chief justice said that the new law was contrary to the provisions of several articles of the Constitution, including Article 63(1)(g), Article(25), Article 204(1) and Article 204(2) of the Constitution.
The verdict states: "While enacting COCA 2012… [an] attempt has been made to reduce the powers of the Court as has been indicated in different provisions..".
It adds that "no immunity can be granted to the public office holders in violation of Article 25 of the Constitution."
The verdict also rules that a section of the Contempt of Court Act 2012 on the hearing of appeals compromises "the dignity and independence of the Courts," while another section "…encourages/promotes the commission of contempt of Court by postponing cognizance of a contempt of Court."
Moreover, the verdict rules that the law "…would also promote the tendency of disrespecting the courts and their orders, therefore, this provision being contrary to the principle of independence of judiciary and access to justice…"
The ruling also adds that the parliamentarians are not entitled to the power of transferring a case from the file of the Chief Justice to the next Senior Judge "as it would be against the independent functioning of the Court" and would be "tantamount to undermining the authority of the Chief Justice and other Judges as well."
The verdict summarizes that, after finding several sections of the law contrary to the provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan, the only constitutional option left to the bench is to declare the Contempt of Court Act 2012 unconstitutional and void in its entirety.
Earlier during the proceedings of the case on Friday, a five-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and including Justice Shakirullah Jan, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Jawad S Khwaja and Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jilani, had heard 27 identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act, 2012.
During the hearing, Attorney General Irfan Qadir was presenting his arguments before the bench.
Addressing the bench, Qadir said he had utmost respect for the court and that the court "should not be displeased".
The attorney general moreover said that he could not afford to divert "even an inch away" from the Constitution.
Upon which, Justice Khwaja said: "You end up moving two to three inches away from the Constitution".
"No, I have not moved away from the Constitution to even a centimeter," Qadir said.
Moreover, Justice Khilji said the new law failed to mention several terms pertaining to contempt of court.
To which, the attorney general said that if the new law was viewed in mathematical terms it would get complicated.
Justice Khilji said the terms of ridicule; scandalisation and contempt of court were not present in many sections of the law.
Responding to which, Qadir said: "It does not make a difference and the essence of the contempt remains in the new law."
He added: "Through the new law, the horizon of contempt of court has, in fact, been broadened."
Chief Justice Iftikhar said that a law could not broaden a concept addressed in the Constitution, adding that, the new law even included magistrates in the definition of a judge.
The attorney general said he had worked with a number of judges and that he had been told that a judge was a judge, even if it he/she was a magistrate.
In his remarks, Justice Khwaja inquired as to why the former prime minister did not file an appeal against his conviction.
Upon which, the attorney general said that Yousuf Raza Gilani made the right decision by not filing the appeal. -Agencies