Contempt of Court Proceeding against AJK minister

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AJK SC disqualifies AJK Sports minister Ch. Saeed for next five years

Altah Hameed Rao

MIRPUR (AJK): : Azad Jammu & Kashmir Supreme Court, has, in a contempt of Court proceeding, here Wednesday disqualified Ch. Muhammad Saeed, AJK minister for sports, youth and culture for next five years from being member of the AJK legislative assembly besides from contesting elections to any public office,

A division bench of the apex court of AJK comprising chief justice Choudhry Muhammad Ibrahim Zia and Justice Raja Saeed Akram Khan, on a contempt of court application, filed by one Javed Akram son of Ch.Muhammad Akram r/o village Sangote, Tehsil and District Mirpur, announced the verdict here on Wednesday.

Ch. Muhammad Saeed was elected as Member of AJK Legislative Assembly in elections to the state legislature held in July 2016 from Mirpur (LA-III constituency) being the candidate of the PML (N) AJK, defeating his nearest rival candidate of the PTI AJK and former Prime Minister Barrister Sultan Mahmood Chaudhry.

He was appointed minister for sports, youth and culture in the incumbent Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan-led PML (N) AJK government.

Ch. Saeed was accused of disobeying the orders of the court of law in respect of removal of encroachment on state-owned land adjacent to the AJK Supreme Court Rest House in Mirpur and his residential building. Renowned legal expert Khalid Rasheed Ch., Advocate appeared for the respondent. Whereas Raja Inamullah Khan, Advocate appeared as counsel for the petitioner and Sardar Karam Dad Khan, Advocate General appeared for the State in the famous case.

According to details in the judgement, the application for initiation of contempt of Court proceedings against the respondent Ch. Muhammad Saeed came with the facts necessary for disposal of this application that some encroachment adjacent to the Supreme Court Rest House Mirpur was noticed by the honorable Chief Justice of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the Deputy Commissioner Mirpur was ordered to submit the report regarding the nature of encroachment. He submitted the report stating therein that the encroachment has been caused by the respondent, herein, upon the land acquired for Mangla Dam reservoir. On this, Deputy Commissioner Mirpur and Director General Mirpur Development Authority, were further directed to submit the detailed report along with the accurate measurement and also ensure the stoppage of encroachment. In this regard, a separate file was maintained. In the meantime, on 05.10.2018, the petitioner, herein, filed an application for initiation of contempt of Court proceedings against the respondent and claimed that the respondent by making encroachment upon the State land has violated the judgment of this Court reported as Muhammad Azeem Dutt and others v. Raja Khadim Hussain and others [2017 SCR 577].

The petitioner along with the application annexed a copy of the judgment of this Court delivered in the case (supra) and the reports of the Deputy Commissioner dated 09.09.2018 and 27.09.2018. On the filing of application, the respondent was summoned 4 who filed para-wise comments and also tendered unconditional apology; however, keeping in view the peculiar facts of the case, the Court while turning down the apology tendered, ordered in the interest of supremacy of law to decide the matter after thoroughly appreciating all the aspects. On the completion of all the necessary proceedings, the arguments of the counsel for the parties as well as the learned Advocate General have been heard.

Mr. Khalid Rasheed Chaudhary, Advocate, the learned counsel for the petitioner argued that the respondent by making encroachment/raising construction over the State land reserved for Mangla Dam reservoir has intentionally violated the judgment of this Court delivered in Muhammad Azeem Dutt’s case (supra) and tried to undermine the authority of the Court. He contended that the respondent is the sitting Minister of the Government and the misuse of authority/violation of the judgment of the apex Court of the State by him conveyed a wrong message to the public at large that the persons holding such positions are over and above law and they can do whatever they want. He added that the respondent raised illegal construction adjacent to the Supreme Court Rest House and even did not bother that under the nose of the apex Court of the State he is going to do an illegal act. He added that the respondent by making encroachment has tried to show his authority that he is not bound by any direction issued by the apex Court. He further added that according to the respondent’s version he purchased the house adjacent to the Supreme Court Rest House in the year 2005, but he made the encroachment when he was holding the portfolio of the Minister which itself shows that the act done by him was intentional. He submitted that the encroachment has fully been proved from the detailed report of the Deputy Commissioner, therefore, the respondent is liable to be punished under the provisions of Contempt of Court Act as he has badly shaken the confidence of general public. He added that being a Minister the respondent was duty bound to act strictly in accordance with law but he failed to discharge the legal obligations. In continuation of the argument, the learned counsel submitted that the respondent instead of taking measures for implementation of the judgment of this Court, himself violated the same; thus, the act of the respondent is fully covered under Article 45 of the Interim Constitution, 1974, read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1993, therefore, he is liable to be punished for the act committed. The learned counsel referred to and relied upon the case law reported as Suo Motu case No.1 of 2007 [PLD 2007 Supreme Court 688], The State v. Khalid Masood, Regional Director, Pakistan Narcotics Control Board, Lahore and 3 others [PLD 1996 SC 42], Federation of Pakistan and others v. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif [PLD 2009 SC 284], Dr. Ali Sana Shakir Bokhari v. The State [2001 SCMR 519], Syed Masroor Ahsan and others v. Ardeshir Cowasjee and others [PLD 1998 SC 823], Reference No.1 of 2011 [2015 SCMR 658], Mst. Shawahid Begum v. Municipal Committee and 13 others [1998 SCR 314], Manzoor Hussain v. The State [PLD 1963 (W.P.) Lahore 20] and Robkar Adalat v. Shahid Mohi-ud-Din and another [2017 SCR 1411].

On the other hand, Raja Inamullah Khan, Advocate, the learned counsel for the respondent at the very outset submitted that his client does not want to contest the matter, as from the day first by tendering unconditional apology, he has placed himself on the mercy of the Court. At this juncture, the respondent also came on the rostrum and while tendering again the unconditional apology stated that he had no intention to violate the judgment of the apex Court and the act done by him was the result of some misconception. However, the learned counsel for the respondent was asked to argue the case; whereupon he submitted that the respondent purchased the house (adjacent to the Supreme Court Rest House) in the year 2005 and the boundary wall around the house was already constructed at the time of sale. He added that since sale transaction, the land in question was never demarcated and the respondent was under the impression that the area where he raised the construction, is the part and parcel of the purchased property. He added that the respondent bona fidely constructed the retention wall to protect his house from damage and except this no other object was there to gain. He added that the act of the respondent was not intentional rather he has a great respect of the Court and even can never imagine to violate the judgment of the apex Court. He contended that the petitioner and the allied persons who filed affidavits against the respondent, have got no locus standi to approach the Court for initiation of contempt of Court proceedings against the respondent. The petitioner owns the affiliation with the opposite political party/rival political candidate of the respondent; therefore, the application against the respondent is politically motivated. In this regard, the learned Advocate drew the attention of the Court towards the statement of the petitioner. He added that the area/land where the construction was being carried out is not included in the master plan of the Mirpur city, therefore, the direction issued in Muhammad Azeem Datt’s case (supra) is not applicable in the matter in hand. The learned counsel referred to and relied upon the case law reported as Fakhre Alam v. The State and another [PLD 1973 SC 525] and Muhammad Mehrban and another v. Muhammad Siddique and 2 others [2005 SCR 418].

Sardar Karam Dad Khan, the learned Advocate-General submitted that the contempt of the Court by the respondent has been proved, however, the matter is between the Court and the contemnor and the Court has the discretion to accept the unconditional apology. He submitted that although a wrong message was conveyed to the public at large by the act of the respondent, but from the action taken by Court, the confidence of the people of the State has been restored and strengthen in the administration of justice that no one is over and above law. He referred to a case law reported as Sardar Ejaz Ali Gillani Advocate v. Sardar Atique Ahmad Khan [1995 SCR 176].

“Before examining the submissions made by the counsel for the parties and the worth of the apology tendered, we would like to observe here that the contempt proceedings are initiated to maintain and strengthen the confidence of the general public and the litigants in the Court and to vindicate the honor and dignity of the Court when somebody tried to ridicule and lower the respect of the Court and shaken the confidence of people at large in the safe administration of justice. The object of the contempt of Court proceedings has been defined in a plethora of judgments”, the learned apex court said in its detailed judgment in the case