ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday deliberated on the criteria to accept an apology in contempt case as it reserved its judgment on intra-court appeals (ICAs), filed by police officers, who were found guilty of manhandling former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on March 13, 2009.
During the hearing, the acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa – who was heading a five-judge bench – noted that dragging the CJP by the hair was the highest contempt. Dr Khalid Ranjha, counsel for the then Islamabad inspector general police submitted that he throws himself at the mercy of the court.
He also called his apology ‘Tarla’ a Punjabi word which means that he is begging for mercy. Upon this, Justice Khosa asked how the court will determine that his apology is unconditional.
“What is the criterion to determine the bona fide of contemnor? Whether an apology is enough to end the contempt proceedings against a person who abused courts and his video was shown all over the world.
“How the SC will know this is a genuine remorse or just an apology to get rid of contempt proceedings. What’s yardstick to know that apology has been submitted with bona fide intent?” he asked.
Justice Khosa said whenever the court decides the case, it has an eye on the future for setting a precedent. He also asked Dr Ranjha to assist the bench as he is senior lawyer of the country.
The counsel referred to an amazing incident when the former military ruler Ziaul Haq received a contempt notice from a judge of the Lahore High Court (LHC), Justice Shafiur Rehman, and Zia offered a handwritten unconditional apology for passing unwarranted remarks at an airport.
“I have not seen such an apology. Zia had said if the court summons then he would rush to the court with bare feet,” Ranjha said. ‘That is how he became army chief,” Justice Khosa said in a lighter vein.
Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, another member of the bench, said even if someone offers an apology with bona fide intent, it is at the discretion of the court to discharge contempt proceedings against him.
He said the court may accept the apology but it is not mentioned in law that the court will accept the apology. Justice Khosa said the court’s jurisdiction cannot go away due to the conduct of parties.
Later, the counsels for other guilty officials – Sardar Muhammad Aslam and Abdul Shakoor Paracha – also tendered an unconditional apology. The bench, however, questioned why the apology was not submitted on the first date of hearing.
The bench noted that they can understand their dilemma. They were receiving order from their high-ups not to allow the CJP to go outside his home but it was difficult for them to stop the chief justice. However it was needed to be examined whether they stood with the law or not? It said
Additional Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti defended the court’s earlier judgment to convict them.
After hearing the arguments, the bench reserved its verdict. It also asked all police officers to ensure their presence on the day of announcement of verdict. The legal experts believe that the court’s direction regarding their personal appearance on the day of judgment is very alarming.
The police officials moved appeals against the Supreme Court’s November 1, 2007 order sentencing Islamabad’s senior administration officials and police personnel for manhandling Justice Chaudhry.
The officials had prevented the former top judge from marching towards the apex court to answer the allegation of misuse of office before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC).