Athar Minallah, Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), stated on Friday that the IHC does not support laws against contempt of court.
“If someone says something wrong, let them do so. This court does not believe in contempt of court laws. The court will not restrain anyone from criticism, but that criticism should be based on truth,” he remarked during the hearing of a petition filed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) against harassment of journalists across the country.
“A campaign is underway against me also. It makes no difference to the court. The truth has to come out one day,” the IHC CJ said.
Justice Minallah, however, asked journalists if they should think over whether it was correct what they were doing. “Every court’s repute is linked with its decisions and conduct. The court reporters know it better.”
“Whosoever has to do anything is free to do it. It makes no difference. But think over it, what you are doing,” the IHC chief justice said.
“Kashif Abbasi is present here. He strongly criticises the court. This court is happy over it no matter how much you criticise it. What I don’t know they tell the nation,” the chief justice added.
“Time will tell on whose side this court is standing. Neither this court was impressed by anything earlier nor will it be in future.”
The CJ said the IHC was the only court against which a campaign of every kind was launched. “Criticism is the power of this court,” remarked CJ Minallah.
PFUJ counsel Shah Khawar told the court cases were registered against journalists in Karachi and Islamabad. The petitioner was arrested in Karachi, and later the court discharged the case.
The CJ remarked that it seemed to the court for the last three years that journalist was a bigger threat to the country.
“We could not restore the constitution fully so far. All will be ok if the constitution is fully revived in this country,” he remarked.
PFUJ President Afzal Butt told the court that it had directed the FIA and the PFUJ to look into the cases against journalists.
But nothing positive happened as more cases were being registered against journalists at other places, he lamented.
Saqib Bashir, president of the Islamabad High Court Journalists Association, told the court one journalist was arrested by the police, detained for five days, and subjected to torture.
The police had handed over that journalist to the FIA, he regretted. “Please order stopping it,” Bashir requested the court.
The court remarked that the report on journalists came from the UN, and the entire report was related to the cases against journalists.
“The cases which have been referred therein are pending a hearing in this court. This letter contained the name of Matiullah Jan, Asad Toor Absar Alam, Gul Bukhari, and others,” said CJ Minallah.
The IHC CJ said journalists’ associations, parliament and the federal government would have to think over it as to why the UN was telling us about it.
“Can any chief executive say we don’t know these things? They kept on saying for three years that this court is a friend of someone. Now friendship has changed and they say now it is someone else friend.”
“You should have not come to the court. The federal government should have looked into this matter,” remarked the IHC chief justice.
PFUJ Secretary-General Lala Asad Pathan told the court that Sabir Shakir and Arshad Sharif had gone abroad — due to the fear of government action against them.
The court remarked that it should be submitted in writing in the court that the state was no more there.
“The UN letter is enough for all of them. Does the government want another letter to come to us? There should be no bar on freedom of speech for the revival of the Constitution. Always the wrong campaign has been unleashed with reference to this court,” Justice Minallah said.
Journalists were anticipating the entrance of IHC CJ Minallah, according to anchorperson Abbasi, who informed the court of this.
The PFUJ president urged that until September 5 the police refrain from making any arrests.
The court ruled that it was not allowed to make such a broad order.