Islamabad High Court (IHC) Friday dismissed a petition seeking contempt of court proceedings against Maryam Nawaz and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi declaring the case as non-maintainable. The petitioner had pleaded that the PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz and ex-prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbadi had tried to scandalise the judiciary through their statements against ex-chief justice Saqib Nisar. Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the case and observed that ‘contempt of court’ laws do not apply on criticism of retired judges, even if they retire as chief justice of the country. “Such a person is no more a member of the ‘Court’ in the context of Article 204 of the Constitution nor under the Ordinance of 2003,” Justice Minallah wrote. He further said that as a private citizen, “it remains open to a retired judicial officer to seek remedies available in a court of law. However, the offence of contempt is not attracted in the case of a retired judge because after retirement the latter attains the status of a private citizen.” The court said judges were entrusted with an “onerous duty to serve the people through the fountain of justice and they are not immune from public scrutiny nor criticism”. “An independent judge would not be influenced nor affected in any other manner because of public criticism,” he continued. During the hearing, Justice Minallah noted that the victim, in this case, can claim defamation through the courts. He also remarked that contempt of court laws do not protect from criticism a retired person, even if they are a former chief justice. “First of all, judges are open-minded about criticism. There is no contempt of court for a retired person, even if the person is a former chief justice. Judges are in a very high position and criticism should be welcomed,” he said. In the order, the IHC CJ stated that the petitioner was offended over the criticism of the former chief justice. The IHC said that after retirement, judges are not part of the bench and are common citizens and can approach alternative forums to get justice. The IHC chief justice explained that the exercise of the power of contempt would be justified only if it was in the public interest. “In the case in hand, the petitioner seems to be hurt because a former Chief Justice of Pakistan has been publicly criticised in his individual capacity. This definitely does not attract the offence of contempt,” the order read. The petitioner, Khaliq, also drew the attention of the chief justice towards another case against Ansar Abbasi and others over the investigative report pending with the IHC. However, Justice Minallah said it was a separate case and should not be mixed with the current one. The IHC had on Nov 16 taken notice of the investigative report and issued show-cause notices to Ansar Abbasi, the former chief judge of GB and two others. The next hearing of the case will be held on Nov 30. Maryam had held a detailed press conference on Wednesday regarding a recently surfaced audio clip allegedly featuring the retired chief justice allegedly issuing directions to wrongfully convict or detain Maryam and PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif. Abbasi had demanded that a suo motu notice be taken against Nisar after former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan, Rana Shamim, accused him of being involved in denying bail to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Maryam ahead of the 2018 general elections. “If Mian Nawaz Sharif can go to jail, why can’t Mian Saqib Nisar?” Abbasi had said in a statement after the allegation by Shamim made the news. Retired chief justice Nisar has already strongly denied that he issued any extra-legal or illegal instructions in any corruption cases against the Sharifs. He has said the audio clip in question has been fabricated and he is contemplating what kind of legal action he will take against it.