ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Monday passed “The Contempt of Court Bill, 2012″ amid protest and walkout by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) against the Bill.
The government also laid Validation Ordinance, 2012 in the House to validate acts, orders and other instruments made and issued from April 26, 2012 to June 19, 2012 by the former Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The government also introduced “The Constitution (Twenty-first Amendment Bill, 2012″ in the National Assembly to increase the pension from 50 percent to 75 percent for the widows of judges of the Supreme Court and High courts.
Minister for Law and Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Farooq H. Naek tabled the bills and the Ordinance in the National Assembly.
The Opposition including a member of PML-Q Link-Minded Kashmala Tariq strongly opposed “The Contempt of Court Bill, 2012″ but the House passed it with majority.
Opposing the Bill, Khawaja Saad Rafiq of PML-N said that the bill was direct attack on the Supreme Court. He claimed that the main purpose of the government was to tie the hands of Superior Judiciary through this legislation. He accused the government of using the parliament as a shield against judiciary.
“Under the law, any public office holder can easily target the superior judiciary. The purpose of this government is to protect some holy cows and to degrade the courts. It is a bad law and its timing is wrong. The government wants confrontation with the Supreme Court. This law is based on the mala fide,’ he said.
Kashmala Tariq of PML-Q Like-Minded said that the government wanted to make more than 200 holy cows (Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and Ministers) prior to hearing of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) implementation case on July 12, 2012.
“The law is tantamount to corner the Chief Justice and Supreme Court of Pakistan,” she claimed.
She said that increasing the pension from 50 percent to 75 percent of the widows of judges of the Supreme Court and High courts was meant to bribe the judges.
According to the Bill, “(3)Contempt of court- Whoever disobeys or disregards any order, direction or process of a court, which he is legally bound to obey; or commits a wilful breach of a valid, undertaking given to a court; or does anything which is intended to or tends to bring the authority of a court or the administration of law into disrespect or disrepute, or to interfere with or obstruct or interrupt the process of law or the due course of any judicial proceedings, or to lower the authority of a court or scandalize a judge in relation to his office, or to disturb the order or decorum of a court, is said to commit “contempt of court”:
Provided that the following shall not amount to commission of contempt of court-
(i) Exercise of powers and performance of functions by a public office holder of his respective office under clause’ (1) of Article 248 of the Constitution for any act done or purported to be done in exercise of those powers and performance of those functions;
(ii) fair comments about’ the general working of courts ‘made ‘in good faith in the public interest and in temperate language;
(iii) fair comments on the merits of a decision of a ‘court made, after the pendency of the proceeding in a case, in good faith and ‘in temperate language;
(iv) subject to a prohibition of publication under section 9 or under any other law for the time being in force, the publication of a fair and substantially accurate report of any judicial proceedings;
(v) the publication of any matter, amounting to a contempt of court by reason of its being published during the pendency of some judicial ‘proceedings, by a person who had no reasonable ground for believing that such judicial proceedings were pending at the time of the publication of the matter;
(vi) the distribution of a publication, containing matter amounting to contempt of court, by a person who had no reasonable ground for believing that the publication contained, or was likely to contain, any such matter;
(vii) a true averment made in good faith and in temperate language for initiation of action or in the course of disciplinary proceedings against a’ judge, before the Chief Justice of a High Court, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the Supreme Judicial Council, the Federal Government or a Provincial Government;
(viii) a plea of truth taken up as a defence in terms of clause (vi) in proceedings for contempt of court arising from an earlier averment unless it is false;
(ix) relevant observations made in judicial capacity, such as, those by a higher court on an appeal or revision or application for transfer of a case, or by a court in judicial proceedings against a judge;
(x) remarks made in ‘an administrative capacity by any authority in the course of official business, including those in connection with a disciplinary inquiry or in an ‘inspection note or a character roll or confidential report; and
(xi) a true statements made in good faith respecting the conduct of a judge in a matter not connected with the performance of his judicial functions.
Punishment.-(1) Subject to sub-section (2), any person who commits contempt of court shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to six months simple imprisonment, or with fine which may extend to one hundred thousand rupees, or with both.
(2) A person accused of having committed contempt of court may, at any stage, submit an apology and the court, if satisfied that it is bona fide, may discharge him or remit his sentence.
(3) In the case of a contempt having been committed, or alleged to have been committed, by a company, the responsibility shall extend to the persons in the Company, directly or indirectly, responsible for the same, who shall also be liable to be punished accordingly.
(4) Notwithstanding anything contained in any judgment no court shall have the power to pass any order of punishment for or in relation to any act of contempt, save and except in accordance with sub-section (1).
The Supreme Court shall have the power to take cognizance of any contempt of itself or of any judge of the Supreme Court alleged to have been committed anywhere and a High Court shall have the power to take cognizance of any contempt of itself or of’ any judge thereof or of any other High Court or of any judge thereof alleged to have been committed within the territorial limits of its jurisdiction.
A High Court shall exercise the same jurisdiction in respect of contempt of courts subordinate to it or to any other High Court as it exercises in respect of contempt of itself.
The bill still has to be passed by the Senate, and then signed by the president – which will probably be done before July 12, when the court takes up the Swiss letter matter.