An Extra Ordinary Reference in regards to Contempt of Court

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An instance of Contempt of Court
Contempt of Court and opinion

An Extra Ordinary Instance

Contempt of court ordinance (V of 2003), S.3. Contempt of Supreme Court initiation of proceedings for contempt of Supreme Court against Prime Minister for non-compliance with the directions given by the supreme court in a case to Federal Government for the revival of the request, withdrawn by the former Attorney General against the serving president of Pakistan).

Supreme Court observed that the conduct of the accused (Prime Minister) in the present case appeared to be symptomatic of a bigger malady which, if allowed to remain unchecked or uncured might overwhelm or engulf the nation.

Arts. 10A & 204. Contempt of court ordinance S.17. Initiation of proceedings for contempt of Supreme Court against Prime Minister of Pakistan for non- compliance with the directions given by the Supreme Court in a case to the federal government for the revival of the request, withdrawn by the former attorney General for Pakistan to be a civil party in a money laundering case in Switzerland (allegedly against the serving president of Pakistan.

Competency of judge/Bench to try the accused for the contempt of court after having issued show-cause notice, framed the charge and having formed prima facie opinion against the accused.

 

Contentions of the accused Prime Minister were that since the present Bench initiated the contempt of court proceedings suo motu, issued show-cause notice and framed charge, it no longer remained competent to proceed with the trial,  for to do so would be in violation of the principle of fair trial guaranteed under Art. 10A of the Constitution, and that the present Bench having already formed an opinion, even if prima facie, about the culpability of the accused, it was no longer competent to proceed with the trial.

Validity:

While issuing a show-cause notice for contempt, a judge only forms a tentative opinion, which was subject to the ultimate outcome at the conclusion of the trial.

Judge, making a prima facie assessment of contempt matter, whether initiated suo motu or on the application of a party, did not stand disqualified on the touch stone of the requirements of a fair trial”, from hearing and deciding the matter.

Present trial of the accused did not infringe upon his fundamental right to a fair trial enshrined in Art. 10A of the Constitution as none of the judges of the present Bench  had the remotest personal  interest in the matter and the contempt proceedings arose out of non-implementation of the judgement of Supreme Court.

Cause not of any member of the Bench but of the Court and in a wider sense of enforcement of the law. Judge, when otherwise disqualified on account of the principles that, “no one should manifestly appear to have been done”, may still sit in the proceedings if in his absence the Tribunal or the court having necessity was also attracted to the present case.

After the show-cause notice was issued to the accused, a preliminary hearing was afforded to him in terms of S.17(3) of the Contempt of Court ordinance, 2003 and upon conclusion of such hearing Supreme Court decided to proceed further and frame a charge against the accused, which was challenged by him through an intra-court appeal.

Said appeal dismissed and the order by the present Bench, forming a prima facie opinion to frame the charge against the accused, was upheld.

Like the present Bench, the Bench hearing the Intra-court appeal. Said appeal was dismissed and the order by the present Bench, forming a prima facie opinion to frame the charge against the accused, was upheld.

Like the present Bench, the Bench hearing the intra-court appeal gad also applied its mind to the existence or otherwise of a prima facie case and if the contention of the accused was accepted, all the members of the Bench hearing the intra court appeal would be equally disqualified, with the exception of one judge; no Bench then be constituted to hear the present contempt matter. 2012 PLD (SC) 553

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