Pakistan News: The Supreme Court declined to accept on Wednesday pleas of two sitting superior court judges facing contempt charges who sought prose- cution of former president Pervez Musharraf, prime minister Shaukat Aziz and then corps commanders and military and civil authorities for what they called defying the apex court`s Nov 3, 2007, restraining order.
The court fixed Feb 21 to frame contempt charge against eight of the 10 sitting judges for defying the restraining order.
“It is, in our opinion, quite unnecessary to link or club the proceedings against the respondents (sitting judges) with those which may be taken against the above named persons (former president and the army chief, the prime minister, corps commanders, etc),” a four-judge SC bench, headed by Justice Mahmood Akhtar Shahid Siddiqui, said in its order.
The bench said that a decision whether or not to proceed against Pervez Musharraf, Shaukat Aziz and corps commanders would be taken by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.
It asked the court office to submit copies of the order to the chief justice for necessary action.
The counsel for Justice Shabbar Raza Rizvi and Justice Hasnat Ahmad Khan argued that the former president, prime minister, corps commanders and civil and military officers concerned were equally liable for disobeying the Supreme Court order restraining them from taking actions contrary to the independence of judiciary.
The order had also barred superior court judges from taking oath under the Provisional Constitution Order, but a large number of them defied it.
Most of them, however, resigned when contempt notices were issued to them after the July 31, 2009, landmark judgment which declared the emergency unconstitutional.
The judges who are facing contempt charges are: Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Hussain Chaudhry, former chief justice of the Lahore High Court, and sitting judges — Justice Sayed Zahid Hussain of the Supreme Court and Justices Hamid Ali Shah, Hasnat Ahmed Khan, Syed Shabbar Raza Rizvi, Yasmin Abbasey and Jehan Zaib Rahim of different high courts.
The Wednesday`s order said that Justice Zafar Iqbal Chaudhry and Justice Khurshid Anwar Bhindar were spared from the contempt proceedings because they had taken oath under the PCO on Dec 14, 2007, when they were not judges and, therefore, did not violate the Nov 3, 2007, restraining order.
“In the circumstances their conduct in taking oath under the PCO and purporting to act as judges is deprecated in terms of Section 18(2) of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003,” the verdict said, adding that they would not be charged to face trial under contempt.
The rest of the judges will be indicted under Article 204 (contempt of court) of the Constitution and the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 for flouting and disregarding its orders. The sitting judges would be show caused and Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq would act as prosecutor under the law during which evidence would be recorded against the judges.
The verdict also answered the questions raised by the counsel of sitting judges and held that the Constitution as well as the law did not prohibit contempt proceedings against the Supreme Court or high court judges.
“We hold that they are not immune from proceedings under Article 204 and the Contempt of the Court Ordinance, 2003, for committing contempt of this court,” the order said.
“Having considered the record, facts and circumstances and replies in these matters and after due consideration of the arguments advanced on behalf of the respondents, we find that there is sufficient material available before us to justify charging the judges for committing the contempt.”
Referring to a request by Advocate Dr Abdul Basit to invite all bars` presidents, including Supreme Court Bar Association chairperson Asma Jehangir, to become amici curaie (friends of the court) in the proceedings, the court said it had been assisted by a number of eminent and senior advocates of this court who advanced exhaustive arguments on the matter.
“They have thus performed the duties expected of them as officers of the court. We, therefore, find no need to seek assistance from any other advocates,” the verdict said.