• Sat. May 18th, 2024

The Majesty of law

  • Home
  • The Majesty of law

“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges beg in the
streets and steal loaves of bread.”
Anatole France(1844-1924)
The recent decision of Islamabad High Court of providing reprieve to Imran Khan in the
contempt of court case has reignited the debate on the essence of equality for all under law.
Let us not forget that proceedings were initiated on the basis of sou moto notice by the Court.
It was, therefore, expected that unless Khan submitted an unconditional apology in the very first hearing, his conviction was unavoidable.

But the manner in which proceedings were conducted and observations by the Chief Justice
raised many eyebrows. It appeared that the environment was more like a Darbar setting rather
than a court of law. It also seemed most unusual that while the court itself considered the
statements of Khan as prima facie contemptuous, it sought ‘guidance from two ‘learned’ amicus curiè. The first hearing also included a lengthy ‘sermon’ by the Chief Justice in which he chastised Hamid Khan for not realizing the sanctity of law and respect of judiciary. He even advised him to examine contents of Supreme Court judgements and also make his client aware of these precedents.

The Court also rejected the statement submitted on behalf of Khan but, in its wisdom, decided
to give another opportunity to Khan to rethink about tendering an unconditional apology. Even
in the next two hearings no unconditional apology was submitted despite the Court virtually
beseeching Khan to do that to preserve the honour of the Court.

And then, finally the drop scene when all was forgiven even though Khan’s affidavit fell short
of an unconditional apology. In its short order the Court did not consider it necessary to give
any rationale on why it decided to deviate from previous judgements that were referred to by
Honourable bench itself.

Note: The above post was put together a couple of months ago (March 2023). Subsequent
events have reinforced the perception how the principle of ‘equality of law’ for important and
less important individuals is being grossly violated. The reaction of a section of the media
and lawyers community following Imran Khan’s arrest presents interesting contradictions.
Yes, the manner in which Imran was arrested was wrong but surely the honourable judges
were aware how earlier efforts to arrest him were resisted violently by his supporters outside
Zaman park. At that time Imran had surrounded himself with a protective shield including
women and children . While the honourable judges were quick to point out that Imran’s arrest
on the premises of a court had no precedence, they had conveniently forgotten several such
past examples. The most recent being the arrest of Maulana Hidayatullah on the premises of
Baluchistan High Court. But then, Baluchis are lesser citizens than Punjabis. Nor did the judges
seem to remember how a detachment of Rangers barged into Mariam Nawaz ‘a room at
midnight to arrest her husband.

The manner how Imran, on his appearance in the Supreme court was treated is again
unprecedented. It is reported that a close friend of the Chief justice also chided him for publicly expressing his ‘fondness’ for Imran, Bandial’s response was very interesting. He said that during his upbringing he learnt the cardinal principle to treat guests with honour and dignity. Now when the court had decided to treat him as their guest, it was incumbent upon him act likewise and to also ensure his comfort and welfare during the court’s ‘protective custody’. When the friend also pointed out that even after the court ‘requested’ Imran to condemn the violence that erupted following his arrest, he withered. In fact, while addressing the Court, Imran responded by declaring that you are all aware that I have never preached violence, why did none of the members of the bench point out that since 2014, he has always done exactly that. To this, Badial’s response was that the court did not wish to delve into the past. Encouraged by that attitude, the following day, without any remorse Imran said that if ever he were again arrested the reaction by his followers would be worse.

To preserve the Majesty of law, the court ordered Imran to reappear before the Islamabad High court that had previously declared the arrest legal. The High cour, predictably responded with ultra speed and ultra turnaround: a grant of bail to him in all cases including those not even within the jurisdiction of Islamabad High court. In addition, a restraint order was passed that prevented the government from initiating any other case against Imran. In the perception of the court, it seems that rights of Imran as a citizen are far more sacrosanct than his obligations to respect the legal framework of the country, a freedom not available to any other politician, judge or general.

In the process of this legal wrangling, the vital questions involved in the case of Al Qadir Trust
have been conveniently removed from the radar screen. This grant’s total immunity to the
Supreme court itself for its conduct in being a party to facilitate the questionable decision of
Imran’s cabinet to transfer public funds to Malik Riaz to be adjusted against the penalty payable by Malik Riaz imposed by the court itself on him for illegal acquisitions of land in Sind.

In fact, sometime earlier, the Supreme court was requested to publicly share details of the amount so far paid by Riaz Malik against the instalments, he is obliged to pay against the penalty. To that the Registrar of the court cutely responded by declaring that this information is ” confidential”. The final inference, dear readers is that the Supreme court has assumed for itself the role of the guardian of the country to protect not only the Majesty of law but to also ensure morality in the society. One could only wish them good luck in discharging this onerous responsibility!!!

By: Javed Masud

Former CEO, PACRA (Pakistan Credit Rating Agency)
Master’s in Economics ( Boston University).
Career civil servant with multiple experience stretching over 25 years after which took voluntary retirement to set up PACRA & served there for another 13 years.
Awarded Sitara- e- Imtiaz in 2008