Criticising courts is tantamount to disobeying constitution: CJP

* Apex court maintains no one can 'kick out' judges * People are observing everything happening these days and are the best judge

ISLAMABAD: Hearing a set of petitions challenging the Elections Act, 2017, which paved way for disqualified prime minister Nawaz Sharif to regain presidency of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday observed that under Article 5 of the constitution, criticising the courts was tantamount to disobeying the constitution.

He was heading a three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan. The bench is hearing 16 almost identical petitions against the Elections Act, 2017. He said Article 5 of the constitution states that the loyalty towards state means loyalty towards judiciary.

He said if the courts are wrapped up, the law of jungle will prevail in the country. He also observed that no one can ‘kick out’ the judges of the country. Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that threatening the state institutions was violation of Article 5 of the constitution.

Resuming his arguments, Latif Khosa, senior counsel for Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) contended that Nawaz Sharif tried to fool the court and people of the country by getting re-elected as head of his ruling party. He said why judiciary was showing extreme restraint against speeches being made by Nawaz Sharif against the judiciary.

The chief justice then remarked that there is a thing which is called ‘wisdom’. During the hearing, the chief justice noted that the court could extend punishment for committing contempt of court beyond six months.

Discussing the legal precedents pertaining to the response of judges to the unnecessary accusations leveled against their judgments, the chief justice remarked that they can neither hold public rallies nor ask for raising of hands, adding that they will not react over the criticism as people of the country were the best judge and seeing everything.

Latif Khosa contended that conspiracies were being hatched these days for removing judges from their offices. The chief justice then noted that no one can ‘kick out’ the judges. Justice Umar Ata Bandial noted that the masses stand with the apex court.

The court directed Additional Attorney General Waqar Rana to submit complete record of the debate held on Elections Act, 2017 in the parliament during its passage. Later, the court adjourned the hearing till today (Thursday).

On January 1, the Supreme Court declared maintainable the petitions challenging Elections Act, 2017. After hearing preliminary arguments from petitioners, a three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, issued notices to Nawaz Sharif, the PML-N and secretaries of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), National Assembly and Senate.

Published in Daily Times, February 8th 2018.