Pakistan Peoples’ Party-led dispensation’s effort to provide immunity to senior government functionaries for their executive actions by amending the contempt law came to naught on Friday with the Supreme Court declaring the legislation “unconstitutional.”
A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that some of the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act (COCA), 2012 — enacted last month in the wake of the judicial ouster of the former premier, Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, and in anticipation of a similar fate for his successor Raja Parvez Ashraf — were meant to “give benefit to contemners who have no respect for the judgements of the Courts.” Further, such provisions violated the principle of equality before the law.
The Court also found little merit in the government’s plea that the COCA was needed to ensure that the democratic arrangement continued to prevail, as one premier had already been sent packing under the previous Contempt of Court law.
Mr. Gilani had been disqualified from membership of the National Assembly for five years for repeatedly refusing to write to the Swiss authorities asking them to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari.
Mr. Ashraf entered office knowing that he faced a similar fate. And, soon after he was sworn in, the Supreme Court asked him to comply with its order to write to the Swiss authorities.
The government again failed to meet the previous deadlines set by the Court — repeating its premise that the letter could not be sent as Mr. Zardari enjoyed immunity while in office — and it has now set August 8 as the next date by when the letter has to be written.