Contempt of court charges: SC reserves PCO judges verdict

ISLAMABAD: A four-member bench of the Supreme Court, hearing contempt of court cases against PCO judges, reserved its verdict on Wednesday following arguments presented by defence attorneys.

Recurring objections hinge on the question of whether judges can be tried by the Supreme Court on contempt of court charges and whether it has the jurisdiction to implicate army generals for violating the court order of November 3, 2007, and serve them contempt of court notices.

Contempt proceedings cannot be initiated against judges under Article 204 of the Constitution, defence attorneys had contended. The Supreme Judicial Council has the sole jurisdiction to try judges under Article 209 of the Constitution.

“If the judges violated the court order, the army was guilty of committing the same offence,” Dr Basit, counsel for Justice Shabbar Raza Rizvi and Justice Hasnat Ahmad Khan, had argued before the bench. Army officers should also be summoned by the court, he said.

Dr Basit has requested the bench to give the president and members of the Supreme Court Bar Association a chance to argue the case since they are considered assistants of the court.

SM Zafar, counsel for Justice Zahid Hussain, argued that judges cannot be prosecuted for contempt of court on account of their immunity. “If judges had immunity, it would have been mentioned in the Constitution,” Justice MA Shahid Siddiqui remarked.

“Everything is spelt out in the code of conduct for judges. When a judge interprets a piece of legislation and sets a precedent, it becomes the law,” Justice Jawad S Khawaja observed.

“It is said that the order of November 3 does not exist, would you agree? Do you accept the order?” Justice Siddiqui enquired. “I do not agree with this contention,” Zafar answered.

Dr Basit submitted that the bench should first decide if army generals may be served contempt notices for violating the order.

The court adjourned the case till Thursday. The bench is yet to decide the date on which to announce the verdict, a court official informed the media.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2011.


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