Contempt petitions: Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer raises objection to LHC larger bench


LAHORE: Former premier Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer on Monday once again raised an objection to the constitution of a larger bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) to hear petitions seeking contempt of court proceedings against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and other Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders.

On April 4, LHC Chief Justice Yawar Ali constituted the three-judge bench, headed by Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi and comprising of Justice Shahid Jameel Khan and Justice Atir Mehmood, to hear the petitions. But Justice Shahid Jameel Khan declined to hear the matter on April 6 citing personal reasons.

The present bench, comprising of Justice Masood Jahangir, Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Atir Mehmood, is the fourth one to be constituted after three judges recused themselves from the case.

Hot words were exchanged between Sharif’s counsel AK Dogar and Justice Naqvi when the former objected to the inclusion of Justice Mehmood on the bench since he had served as the secretary general of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s lawyer forum in the past.

“It is my right to raise objections,” said Dogar, while adding, “The party has just begun.”

In reply, Justice Naqvi said every citizen had the right to support any political party and clarified that Justice Mehmood never held any office in the Imran Khan-led party.

The counsel insisted it appeared that the bench had already made up its mind about the outcome of the case.

Justice Naqvi did not take kindly to the lawyer’s attempt at repartee, reminding him that he was standing in the courtroom. “Mr Dogar, this is a court. Decisions here would be taken according to the law rather than your wishes,” he said.

“What is this that you have begun? Are these legal arguments?” he added. “You are a senior lawyer, do not utter such things,” Justice Naqvi remarked.

Justice Naqvi then prevented Dogar from presenting further arguments, saying that even notices have not been served as yet. “We might just reject these petitions. You should present your arguments after notices have been served.”

“You know how much you are respected. I suggest keep this respect intact,” Justice Naqvi said to the lawyer, asking him if it was the first time that he was appearing in court.

“I come here every day to express my love for you,” Dogar responded.

The judge assured Dogar that whatever would happen in the court would be according to the law and he should not think that the judges were in the court with an agenda.

The petitioner’s lawyer Advocate Azhar Siddique informed the court that he had asked the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) multiple times to ensure contemptuous speeches were not aired on television.

He said that he presented contemptuous statements to PEMRA’s council of complaints on being summoned.

“Why does PEMRA not prevent contemptuous speeches from being aired?” Justice Naqvi inquired from PEMRA Secretary Sohail Asif, who was present in the court for the hearing.

He remarked that PEMRA had a mechanism through which it could stop contemptuous material before it was even aired. “On what basis do you give show cause notices to channels every day?” he asked.

The judge also asked why the acting chairman of the regulatory authority, Ashfaq Jumani, had not appeared for the hearing despite being summoned.

“He is in the head office,” Asif responded, at which the court ordered Jumani to personally appear for the next hearing.

The court also ordered that all the alleged contemptuous material should be presented in the next hearing, set for April 11.

Following the Panamagate verdict, Sharif and other PML-N leaders have drawn ire for their criticism of the judiciary.

Multiple petitions have been filed in different courts against them over alleged contempt of court.

In January, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had accepted a contempt of court petition against Sharif and his daughter Maryam for making anti-judiciary speeches.

The Supreme Court (SC), however, dismissed multiple contempt of court petitions against the ousted prime minister last month, saying on one occasion, “Commenting cleanly on a [court] decision is the right of every citizen.”