Distractions Of Contempt

An oft-made complain of our system of law is that there are a hundred various ways of delaying, stalling and talking about everything except the main issue of the case. The Court’s recent series of contempt cases is a classic example.

For a short period of time, it seemed that the Supreme Court’s inclination towards contempt cases had diminished. After the sentencing of Nehal Hashmi, and the suo-moto cases on Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry, there seemed a relative peace of a month, where the Chief Justice Saqib Nisar reiterated that charging on contempt of court was not a favoured action of the court. The constant dismissals of the SC of contempt petitions against Nawaz Sharif also seemed to indicate that the wave of contempt petitions had stopped.

This was an evidently mistaken notion, as on Friday, the Supreme Court has broken this streak of peace on contempt. The only thing different is that this time the contempt cases it has accepted are diverse and inclusive of different political parties. The SC on Friday fixed separate contempt of court petitions against former premier Nawaz Sharif, PTI Chairman Imran Khan and former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry for hearing on April 4. The petition against Imran Khan has been filed by senior lawyer Naseer Ahmed Kayani, accusing the PTI Chief of committing contempt of court by using derogatory language against former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. Riaz Hanif Rahi has filed two separate contempt of court petitions against the former premier and Iftikhar Chaudhry, both of which are based on the provision of a bullet-proof vehicle to the judge-turned-politician.

While the Court is within its rights to hear the petitions, it is not the best advised action to once again start a dialogue on contempt of court. The court’s last three cases of contempt of court against PML-N leaders had entailed a great deal of publicity, and had caused much debate and criticism on the dangerous precedents of overusing the offence of contempt, and the biases of the court.

Moreover, the acceptance of these petitions are ill-timed, as there are much more imperative political cases that are pending in the courts; cases on corruption, assets beyond means and fraud, which impact the lives of people of Pakistan far more than contempt of court would do. Focusing on contempt petitions entails distracting from the main accountability cases coming, and just leads to the court creating more hassle for itself.

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