ISLAMABAD -  Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar Wednesday said loyalty to the judiciary is the duty of every citizen of Pakistan and ridiculing it is disobedience to the constitution.

The chief justice said this while heading a three-judge bench which heard the petitions against the Election Act 2017.

Sardar Latif Khosa, representing Pakistan People’s Party, said freedom of speech does not mean PML-N leaders are allowed to scandalise and criticise the apex court.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan said criticising and attacking the apex court also fall under the purview of Article 5 of the constitution, which says; “Loyalty to the state as well as obedience to the constitution and law is the obligation of every citizen.”

To a court query, Latif Khosa said the state comprises parliament, judiciary and executive. He added Article 5 says loyalty to the state is the obligation of every citizen while disloyalty to it is treason.

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar said there is a latest trend in the English courts. Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan said: “They (judges) do respond to the criticism of their judgments in public and that response is robust.”

The chief justice also held the sentence for contempt of court is not only a six-month jail, but it could be awarded keeping in view the extent of contempt.

Justice Ahsan said: “You (Nawaz Sharif) tried to befool the people inside and outside the court, but never told the whole truth to the bench.”

Latif Khosa said it is the track record of PML-N leaders that if a judgment comes against them, they start criticising the courts. He said the people should respect not only the apex court but also all the courts. He said if people stop respecting the courts, it would be disastrous for the society and the whole structure would be destroyed and there would be law of jungle.

The PPP lawyer said the SC is not just a court of four or five judges; it is the court of the people of Pakistan, adding the judges are sitting with the backing of the people. “Nawaz Sharif has not been removed by the apex court, but the people of Pakistan. This is not just the humiliation of the court, but that of the people of Pakistan,” he added.

He said the column in the Election Act about assets has been excluded from the nomination forms, exempting the legislators’ wealth from accountability. The chief justice said all the parties in the parliament had taken part in the passage of the Election Act. He told Khosa his party also gave vote in favour of the Election Act. He ordered the attorney general for Pakistan to provide record of the debate on the bill.

The chief justice questioned whether the legislation could be struck down by the apex court. Khosa said there are a number of judgments in which the court has struck down laws.

Khosa argued the court is showing restraint on former premier minister Nawaz Sharif’s speeches against judges. The chief justice said the people of Pakistan are the backbone and strength of the judiciary, adding they are the best judge and see everything.

Latif Khosa concluded his arguments while the hearing was adjourned until Thursday (today).