Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry remarked the Constitution did not say that those holding public offices would be immune to prosecution in case they commit contempt of court.
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 Khawaja and Justice Tassadduq Hussain Jilani, was hearing 27 identical petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Act, 2012.
Presenting arguments, federation’s lawyer Abdul Shakoor said parliament has the right to legislate a law subjecting to the issue of contempt of court.
Paracha said the Constitution had left the matter of procedure involving contempt of court proceedings on the judiciary, adding that, his arguments would be based on the existing law.
Paracha said the parliament had the authority to grant immunity to anyone, adding that, the parliament could also legislate on the subject of immunity.
He said that the court could not declare the parliament’s step as mala fide. The constitution’s Article 204 refers to the powers of the judiciary, Paracha added.
Chief justice remarked that the law says that few people are exempted from contempt of court no matter what they say in court, adding that parliament introduces a law while judiciary elucidates it.
He remarked that if parliamentarians committed contempt of court, the National Assembly Speaker or Chairman Senate were bound to send the case for trial.
He added that it was written in the new law that specific people had immunity from contempt proceedings and could act however they pleased with the courts.
According to the Chief Justice parliamentarians had conditional freedom of speech under article 19 of the constitution.
Moreover, Justice Khawaja said that certain clauses in the contempt laws of 1976 and 2012 were similar.
He moreover said that while lawmaking was the job of the parliament, it was the court that had the authority to interpret them.
Justice Khawaja said that the parliament was still working under limitations as it could not interfere in the legislation done by provinces.
A counsel for one of the petitioners asked how issues not dealt with in the Constitution would be addressed.
Justice Jilani said the law should reflect the essence of the Constitution.
We respect the parliament but a law cannot be made by simple majority, Justice Jilani said.
Upon which, Paracha said that the parliament had the authority to legislate and that this right could not be taken away from it.
After completion of arguments by the prosecutor, the court adjourned the hearing till tomorrow.