Supreme Court issues contempt notice to Altaf -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

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Supreme Court issues contempt notice to Altaf

By: Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: In another setback for Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), following an ‘adverse’ verdict on delimitation of constituencies in Karachi, the Supreme Court on Friday asked MQM chief Altaf Hussain to appear before it in person and explain why he should not be charged for contempt over “his contemptuous assertions against the judiciary”.

In a telephonic address from London to a gathering in Karachi on Dec 2, Mr Hussain had criticised the judiciary and said that judges of the apex court should apologise for their remarks on delimitation of Karachi’s constituencies or face the consequences.

In the wake of non-implementation of a directive by the court on the worsening law and order situation in Karachi, a Supreme Court bench had conducted a series of hearings in the city and asked the Election Commission of Pakistan to initiate the process of delimitation in the metropolis.

“Prime facie, we are of the opinion that the language used is not only contemptuous but that he (Mr Hussain) advances threat which is tantamount to interference with and obstruction of the process of the court by advancing threats to the judges of the Supreme Court and it also tended to bring the Judges into hatred, ridicule and contempt,” said an order dictated by a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The other members of the bench were Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

In the notice issued under Article 204 of the Constitution read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003, the court specifically asked Mr Hussain to appear before it in person on Jan 7. Political observers, however, believe that the MQM chief will never come to Pakistan because dozens of cases of a serious nature are registered against him.

Meanwhile, in an address to his party’s workers, office-bearers and legislators on Friday, Mr Hussain said he would respond to the contempt notice after consulting his legal advisers. He also appealed to his party’s members and supporters to refrain from taking the law into their hands.

In case the court is not satisfied with the explanation to be offered by the MQM chief, it can indict Mr Hussain for committing contempt and initiate a trial that may culminate in him being adjudged a contemnor.

Section 19 of the contempt law, however, provides for an intra-court appeal before a larger bench of the court which can suspend the conviction or any impugned order pending disposal of the appeal.

Under Section 2 of the same law a defendant can tender apology at any stage and the court, if satisfied, may discharge the proceedings.

Mr Hussain is not the first politician to face the contempt notice. Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani lost his coveted office after he was sentenced by the court on April 26 for not writing a letter to the Swiss authorities and was eventually disqualified on June 19.

His successor and incumbent Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf narrowly escaped the same charges when his administration agreed to write the letter.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik, former law minister Babar Awan, PPP Senator Taj Haider and Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon are also facing contempt charges.

HAJI ADEEL CASE: The court had taken up a contempt petition moved by ANP Senator Haji Adeel for initiating contempt of court proceedings against Sindh’s chief secretary, its home secretary and its inspector-general of police for not implementing a verdict pertaining to the poor law and order situation in Karachi.

However, the contempt notice against Mr Hussain came on an office note put up by Supreme Court Registrar Dr Faqir Hussain who had invited the court’s attention towards Mr Hussain’s “uncalled-for aspersions on the judges”.

After going through the text of Mr Hussain’s speech and after taking into consideration the constitutional provisions involved, the court issued a notice to him, asking him to appear in person before it, according to the order.

The bench directed the foreign affairs secretary to serve the notice upon Mr Hussain through the Foreign Office after locating the correct address in London.

It instructed that another notice be issued to Mr Hussain via Dr Farooq Sattar, the deputy convener of the MQM, at 494/8, Azizabad, Karachi.

With regard to Mr Adeel’s petition, the court ordered that contempt notices be issued to Sindh Chief Secretary Raja Muhammad Abbas, Home Secretary Waseem Ahmed and Sindh IGP Fayyaz Leghari for not implementing the court’s earlier order in letter and spirit.

The court also instructed the advocate-general of Sindh to submit a comprehensive compliance report on the implementation of its order. In case the order had not been executed, the law officer should identify the person(s) hindering its implementation.

The provincial chief secretary was asked to furnish a statement before the court explaining why the killings in Karachi had again increased and what measures were being taken to ensure security and safety of the citizens of Karachi. He was also instructed to submit the details of citizens who were killed from Sept 13, 2011, to date.