SC vocalises intention to make contempt law punishments harsher

  • CJP says court is considering re-interpreting Article 204 in a way that sentence of six months may continue until the accused purges himself before the court
Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – As the Supreme Court of Pakistan is seized with various contempt of court cases some against sitting lawmakers, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has hinted at re-interpreting contempt law in order to award stricter punishments to contemnors.

“We may interpret Article 204 of the Constitution independent of the provisions of the contempt of court ordinance (COCO) 2003 in a way that the sentence awarded to a guilty of disrespecting courts would continue till he purges before the court”, remarked the chief justice on Monday while hearing a case regarding roughing up former chief justice of the apex court Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry by police on March 13, 2007.

The Article 204 read with COCO, 2003 authorises the top court to start proceedings against individuals for scandalising courts. The court can award the maximum six-month jail term or a fine up to Rs100,000 by invoking Section 5 of COCO, 2003.

There was a possibility the court might opt to send anyone to prison for an indefinite period, Express Tribune reported.

The court is hearing contempt case against Inspector-General Police Chaudhry Iftikhar Ahmad, Senior Superintendent, Islamabad, Captain (retd) Zafar Iqbal, Chief Commissioner Khalid Pervaiz, Deputy Commissioner, Islamabad, Mohammad Ali Jamil, DSP Hashmi, SHO Rukhsar Mehdi and Security Guard to IG Siraj Ahmad, who were awarded punishments for manhandling the former chief justice by barring him from approaching the apex court to defend the allegation of misuse of authority before the Supreme Judicial Council.

The sentence, soon after the announcement, was suspended for 15 days after the convicted senior administration officials and police personnel requested to file an appeal against the sentences.

Later, a 10-member bench barred the departments concerned from taking any stern action against the appellants till their appeals are pending with the court.

On Monday, CJP Nisar suggested counsel for Justice Chaudhry to ask his client whether he wanted to pardon the contemnor.

However, former CJP refused to pardon officials who tendered unconditional apology in the case. He remarked that the matter was about the prestige of the institution.

At this, the CJP observed that the apex court will handle the case according to law and referred it to a five-member bench.

The case was later adjourned till May 14.

Currently, the court is hearing contempt of court cases against two ministers of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – State Interior Minister Tallal Chaudhry, Federal Privatisation Minister Daniyal Aziz. The court has indicted both for their contemptuous speeches against the judiciary.