Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has released its detailed reasons on the PM’s appeal against a preliminary order in the contempt case. It may be recalled that on 2nd February, a 7- member trial bench had decided to proceed with framing of contempt charge against him. The PM filed an appeal against this preliminary order.
The appeal was heard at length by a separate 8-member bench, headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan. On 10th February, after a detailed hearing the appeal was turned down through a short order. The reasons in support of that order have now been released.
The 15-page judgment has been authored by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja. Since this was only the preliminary stage, the judgment refrains from passing any comment on the key defence presented by the PM. These include PM’s argument that his act of contempt, if any, was not ‘wilful’ , and that he was only following official summaries, which under the rules, he had received. These defences, the Court has said, require appraisal of evidence and are best left for adjudication by the trial bench.
The Court has held that at this preliminary stage, all it needed to make up its mind was ‘an arguable case ‘ that contempt may have been committed. Form the simple facts available on record, it was amply clear that such a case did exist against the PM, since he had not and still has not implemented directives issued in the NRO judgment. It was now up to the PM to present evidence and legal reasons to show how, if at all, the preliminary impression was unfounded.
While staying quiet about the PM’s affirmative defences, the opinion highlights important constitutional principles, which have a bearing on this case. The two salient principles which have been expounded include: firstly that all people, regardless of their stature in society, are equally bound by the law and are expected to obey court orders; and secondly, that the possibility of contempt being committed by a constitutional functionary was a more, not less, serious matter than if the same had been done by an ordinary citizen.
In explaining this legal position, the Court has referred to the preamble, Article 5 and Article 25 of the Constitution, as well as to statements of the founded fathers of Pakistan, and to its own precedents. The Court has explained the underlying spirit of these articles by referring to a well-Known saying of Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him).
The hadith warns us that societies where the law was reserved only for the ordinary people, while the powerful were kept shielded from it, suffer destruction. The Court explains that it was in the light of this perennial wisdom that the framers based our Constitution on the principle of equality before law. Officials were meant, under our constitution, to diligently and faithfully serve the people and not to rule over them with impunity.
Justice Khawaja has expounded an important constitutional doctrine concerning ‘public trust ‘.
According to this doctrine, all constitutional officers hold their office only as a trust for the general public. Being trustees they are bound to follow the instruction of the general public. Since these instruction, in a modern democratic society, find their best expression in the form of the constitution and the law, obedience to the same become a necessary corollary of the fiduciary duty of trustees.
This is why all constitutional functionaries are required to take an oath promising adherence to the Constitution and the law. And, in Article 190, they have also been expressly obliged to act aid of the Supreme Court. If however, constitutional functionaries do not show such obedience, they can be seen as have violated the trust reposed in them by the public. It is to take stock of such violation of public trust, and not because of any egoistic reasons, that courts are obliged to proceed against violators – a possibility contemplated in our Constitution’s Article 204.
The 8-member bench which this judgment comprised of the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan,Justice Jawwad S.Khawaja, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Khilji Arif Husain, Justice Tariq Parvez, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, Justice Amir Hani Muslim.
For more information, contact:
Shahid Hussain Kamboyo
Public Relations Officer
Supreme Court of Pakistan
Tel: +9251 920 4184
Fax: +9251 920 1001