Friday, July 6, 2012

Pak to enact Contempt of Court Bill, 2012 to curb SC's powers

Pak Parliament to take up bill to curb Supreme Court's powers

PTI

ISLAMABAD, July 6, 2012

A bill aimed at shielding top leaders from contempt charges and curbing the Supreme Court's efforts to push Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf into reopening graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari is set to be introduced in a special session of Pakistan Parliament on Friday.

The government intends to get the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 passed by the National Assembly and the Senate before the Supreme Court takes up the issue of reviving the corruption cases against Mr. Zardari on July 12.

A Constitutional amendment bill will also be introduced by the government to allow holders of dual nationality to contest polls, days after the Supreme Court suspended the membership of nine federal and provincial lawmakers, including former Interior Minister Rehman Malik over the issue.

The special session of the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament begins on Friday while a session of the Senate or upper house has been convened from Monday.

The Contempt of Court Bill provides blanket immunity to top government functionaries for executive actions.

It can also be used to launch disciplinary proceedings against a judge without such a move coming under the ambit of contempt.

Senior Pakistan People's Party leader Raja Pervez Ashraf became the Prime Minister last month after his predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified by a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry for refusing to approach Swiss authorities to reopen the graft cases against Mr. Zardari.

The Supreme Court has been pushing the PPP-led government to revive the cases against the President since December 2009, when it annulled a graft amnesty issued by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf that benefited Mr. Zardari and over 8,000 others.

The government has refused to act, saying the President enjoys immunity within Pakistan and abroad.

Mr. Ashraf has adopted the same stance as Mr. Gilani, saying the government cannot ask the Swiss authorities to reopen the cases as long as Mr. Zardari holds office.

If Parliament passes the draft contempt of court law, approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday, it will replace the erstwhile Contempt of Court Act 1976 and the contempt of court ordinances of 2003 and 2004.

Unlike the ordinances of 2003 and 2004 that explained in detail civil, criminal and judicial contempt, the proposed law focuses on actions that do not amount to commission of contempt of court.

Besides protecting the powers and performance of holders of public office mentioned in Article 248 of the Constitution, which include the President, Prime Minister, Governors, Chief Ministers, federal and state ministers, the proposed contempt of court bill shields "any authority" against contempt charges.

Under the proposed law, if an accused or a person convicted of contempt files an appeal, the original order will remain suspended till the matter is disposed of.

The draft states: "An accused person may also at any stage submit an apology and the court, if satisfied, may discharge him or remit his sentence."

It further states that any "true averment made in good faith and temperate language for initiation of action" against a judge "shall not amount to contempt of court."

The draft law needs to be passed only by a simple majority in both houses of Parliament and legal experts have said the PPP-led ruling coalition has the numbers in both the Senate and the National Assembly to ensure the passage of the draft law.

However, the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) is expected to oppose this bill.

Courtesy_

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