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SC to hear Govt's complaint against lawyers

The Pakistan Supreme Court decides to constitute a full bench to hear the government's complaint against the lawyers.

world Updated: May 31, 2007 16:21 IST
KJM Varma

The Pakistan Supreme Court on Thursday decided to constitute a full bench to hear the government's complaint against the lawyers of suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar M Chaudhry for using "derogatory" language against various Constitutional institutions, including the Army, at a seminar in Islamabad last week.

Justice Javed Iqbal, who is the Acting Chief Justice in the absence of Rana Bhagwan Das as he is attending a conference in Malaysia, ordered the constitution of the full bench to hear the government's complaint against the speeches made by several lawyers at the May 26 seminar organised at the apex court's premises by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) headed by Chaudhry's defence lawyer, Munir A Mallik.

When the complaint filed by Interior Secretary Sayed Kamal Shah came before Iqbal on Thursday, he said it would be adjudged by a full court which would be notified.

The complaint included transcripts of the speeches made by some lawyers including Ali Ahmed Kurd and Hamid Khan - both in the panel of the defence lawyers of Chaudhry. It alleged that speeches and slogans violated the conditions set by Justice Das while granting permission for the seminar.

Justice Das, while granting permission to the SCBA, had said the meeting should not be used for any political purpose and character assassination.

Shah's complaint in a letter said that Justice Das' conditions were flouted by the speakers. It said Chaudhry's lawyers made "high derogatory speeches against various Constitutional institutions" and indulged in "highly provocative sloganeering" violating the "dignity and sanctity" of the apex court.

The apex court is for the second time constituting a full bench in issues connected with Chaudhry. Already a 13-judge full bench is hearing the petition of Chaudhry challenging the Presidential reference against him.

The Supreme Court's decision to constitute a full bench came a day after President Pervez Musharraf took serious note of the anti- government and anti-military speeches at the seminar on 'Separation of Powers and Independence of Judiciary', which was addressed among others by Chaudhry and attended by several thousand lawyers from all over the country.

Interestingly, Musharraf, who was at the centre of criticism at the seminar, chose to hit back during his address to officers of Army garrison at Jhelum, where he said the tone and language used at the seminar tantamount to humiliating the armed forces and the judiciary.

He said the speeches made and slogans raised during the seminar were "an assault" on the apex court.

A defence press release quoted Musharraf as telling officers of the Jhelum Garrison that his move to send the reference against Chaudhry was a state issue, which was far above his personal relationship with the judge.

He dispelled the impression that Chaudhry had been summoned to the President's Camp Office on the day he was suspended on March 9 and said that the judge had come on his own accord.

Musharraf also found fault with the coverage of some TV channels for not balancing their reporting and politicising "a purely judicial and legal matter."

He said the media should abide by the code of conduct, rules and regulations approved by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and play a "positive role" in projecting national issues.

The Pakistan President said that spreading "despondency and negativism" would adversely affect the nation.

Referring to "unbalanced reporting" and remarks made in talk shows, Musharraf said it amounted to creating pressure on the judiciary.

He said the government would accept the Supreme Court's verdict on the issue, but the court should take its decision without any fear or favour.

Musharraf said the media was free to criticise any government action, but their criticism should not demoralise the nation.