ISLAMABAD - The halt in framing of contempt charges against Malik Riaz Monday lent credence to the accusation that Contempt of Court Act 2012 has been enacted to save the skin of certain persons.

A three-member SC bench headed by Justice Shakirullah Jan and comprising Justice Ejaz Afzal and Justice Athar Saeed heard the contempt of court matter against the tycoon.

Malik Riaz Hussain had addressed a press conference at a local hotel in Islamabad on June 16 wherein he allegedly ridiculed the judiciary, particularly Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The bench was due to frame charges against him yesterday (Monday). However, at the onset of the proceeding, Dr Abdul Basit, coming on the rostrum, sarcastically remarked that he also desired that charges be framed against his client but the new law bars the court to do so.

Petitioner Ashraf Gujjar, former president of Islamabad High Court Bar Association, expressed his wonder that the defence lawyer had himself stated that the new contempt law was not made for his client and it could be thrown to the dustbin, but now he was seeking to use the same to shield his client.

On an application filed by Dr Basit to exempt Malik Riaz from personal appearance before the bench during the proceedings of the case, the bench issued notices to the parties concerned.

Raiz’s counsel also sought to submit an intra-court appeal that was returned by the SC office with objection that the court order was not attached with it. The counsel in the appeal objected to the nature of the case and its hearing. He stated that before the decision on the objections, which he had raised in the appeal, the court should not frame charges against his client.

Attorney General Irfan Qadir said that after filing of the intra-court appeal further proceedings of the case could not continue. He said that this needs to be discussed that under what law the hearing of the appeal would be conducted. The petitioner’s counsel argued that till the suspension of order to frame charges against Riaz the present proceedings could not be halted. Justice Shakirullah said they have studied the new contempt law that says that proceedings should be stopped with the filing of appeal.

The question was as to which law – old or new – would be applicable for conducting of proceeding and awarding of sentence.

The attorney general said if it is concluded that Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003 would be applied for proceedings then it would create constitutional and legal complications. He said the new law says that all the old contempt laws have been abolished with the enactment of new law on the subject.

The court in order to sort out this issue adjourned the hearing until July 31 with the direction to all the parties to give legal opinion on it.