As recently as last Thursday, the Supreme Court declared Nehal Hashmi to be in contempt of Court under Article 204 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973. This verdict was announced as a result of a fiery speech he delivered in May 2017, in which he threatened to make lives of the ‘people’ miserable, for attempting to hold the Sharif family accountable in Panama controversy. The apex court, while dismissing an unconditional apology of Nehal Hashmi, sentenced him to one-month imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000. Additionally, he has been barred, by the Supreme Court, from holding a public office for the next five years. Following this verdict, the Election Commission of Pakistan, on Friday, de-notified Nehal Hashmi from the Senate, per Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution. Pertinently, article 204 of the constitution empowers the Supreme Court and the High Courts to punish any person who, inter alia, ‘abuses or interferes with or obstructs the process of the court in any way or disobeys any order of the court.’ The spirit of article 204, apart from imposing a responsibility on the superior courts, makes it incumbent upon the citizens of Pakistan, to guard the sanctity and integrity of the honourable judges as well as their judgments. However, the purpose of contempt proceedings is not to wreck vengeance, but to vindicate honour of court so as to keep public confidence in superior courts and to keep function of justice free from influence and obstruction. It is appalling to note that certain individuals have been condoned from the application of contempt laws. One such individual, who apparently enjoys this immunity, is none other than extremist cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi It is for this reason that the Supreme Court, in recent past, had issued contempt against political bigwigs such as former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, for willfully defying the order of the Supreme Court and PTI Chief Imran Khan for attempting to incite hatred against the apex court in one of his interactions with the media. It is necessary, in the interest of effective administration of justice, to preserve the dignity and authority of the courts and maintain the supremacy and majesty of the law. Therefore, stating the obvious, any conduct which diminishes dignity of the court or undermines public confidence in the administration of justice is liable to be declared contemptuous, regardless of social or political stature of the contemnor. Expectedly, the honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, initiated suo moto proceedings, for the contempt of court, against PML-N leaders. Notices have been served upon Daniyal Aziz, Federal Minister for Privatisation, and Talal Chaudhry, State Minister for Interior, for making ‘derogatory and contemptuous speeches/statements at public gatherings’, with an intent to belittle the stature of the apex court. It is a well settled principle of our jurisprudence that every citizen must be treated equally by the law and all people are subject to the same laws of justice (due process!), which explains the fact that coveted members of the press, politicians, and even the prime minister have been summoned and subsequently convicted by our superior courts for committing contempt of court. However, it is appalling to note that certain individuals have been condoned from the application of contempt laws. One such individual, who apparently enjoys this immunity, is none other than extremist cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi. Rizvi, an individual who seems to have mastered the art of hate-speech, whose shameless hostility knows no bounds, and who has crossed every possible line of civility and decency, while scandalising the honourable Supreme Court as well as its esteemed judges, during his offensive speech (one of the many?), seems to escape any accountability for his remarks. Without getting into the specifics of Rizvi’s speech, each word and gesture related to the superior courts and its honourable judges undoubtedly amounts to contempt of court. Yet, what burdens the collective conscience of the society, particularly the legal community, is the absolute silence of our superior judiciary on this matter. This exception resonates with selective auditory attention i.e. choosing to process selective information. It appears that our Supreme Court takes immediate action when the matter is political in nature. However, insulting remarks against the judiciary, by an individual such as Rizvi, in a public speech, are simply ignored. There is no cavil to the proposition that Supreme Court enjoys wide discretion in such matters, which must be exercised judiciously depending on the facts and circumstance of each case. However, selective application of the contempt laws, particularly in Rizvi’s matter, is beyond comprehension. What further perplexes the mind is the fact that how are the words and conduct of a political figure more contemptuous than that of Rizvi’s? Why is contemptuous conduct, in certain cases, deemed inconsequential? And, what are the contours of contempt laws, in light of the exceptions, that are being silently granted? In the interest of clarity and rule of law, it is crucial, at this time of ever-so-visible clash between the executive and the judiciary, that our superior courts develop jurisprudence in a consistent manner. The jurisprudence must signify the belief that justice be realised regardless of the consequences. It must not be influenced by the objectives of the executive. It must be confined to elucidate the true meaning of the law. It must demonstrate a sense of fairness, honesty, equity, and equality — that the law is just and that justice has been done. As such, in line with the recent judgment, silent exemptions must no longer be afforded to individuals, who have no regard for the protectors of our constitution or our collective national values. The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer. He has a Masters in Law from University of California, Berkeley. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, February 5th 2018.