The Contempt of Court Bill 2012 was presented in the National Assembly and the Senate, passed by the two houses without much debate and signed into law by the President, all in the span of four days last week. The new law is a naked attempt to save government functionaries from the consequences of disobeying court orders and slinging mud on the honourable judges, and it is expected to be deployed to save the neck of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who is following the footsteps of his disqualified predecessor in refusing to follow the unambiguous order of the Supreme Court in the NRO implementation case. Several petitions have challenged the new law in the apex court for violating at least five articles of the Constitution and the Pakistan Bar Council has announced that lawyers will observe a black day to protest against this latest attack on the independence of judiciary on July 23 when the petitions are fixed for hearing. Meanwhile, the PPP wallahs and their one-eyed supporters have kicked up a spurious debate on parliamentary supremacy to obfuscate a clear matter.It is hard to understand the position of these apologists of the Zardari regime. They would like to wish away the constitutional responsibility of the higher judiciary to strike down laws that violate the Constitution and give unbridled authority to the parliamentary majority to do as it pleases, with no regard whatsoever for the constitutional framework within which it is meant to operate. They would like us to believe that, once elected, Parliament could behave like a monarch.Interestingly, these ‘progressive’ apologists and jiyalas of PPP, who do not tire of mouthing platitudes in favour of democracy, are using the outdated concept of absolute supremacy of Parliament to essentially defend a law that is clearly discriminatory and flouts the basic principle of equality before law on which the entire edifice of democracy stands. They have no love for Parliament where it really matters.The manner in which the Contempt of Court Bill 2012 was rushed through the National Assembly and the Senate actually amounts to contempt of Parliament, which is supposed to debate and refine any legislation before passing it. Those waving flags of parliamentary supremacy have no problem with Parliament being used as a rubberstamp by unelected leaders of political parties. They conveniently forget about the real power of Parliament when it is reduced to dancing to the tunes of agendas set by these big bosses in meetings behind closed doors. They have no problem when the consensus resolutions and recommendations of the same Parliament are trashed by the so-called democratic government. They don’t see the power of Parliament being compromised by illegally elected parliamentarians, who lied about their dual nationalities and submitted fake degrees to contest elections. They don’t see bogus votes chipping away the authority of Parliament. It is a bit strange that their love for Parliament is awakened only when its unconstitutional actions are challenged in the Supreme Court.Last time we were lectured about parliamentary supremacy was when the Speaker of the National Assembly overstepped her constitutional authority to save her party’s Prime Minister from disqualification, over-ruling the order of a seven-member Supreme Court bench. And this time, the concept has been brought to life to defend a patently undemocratic and unconstitutional law, rushed through Parliament for the benefit of the new Prime Minister and those in positions of power. Obviously, the one-eyed champions of democracy are more interested in supporting the devious power-play emanating from the presidency in the name of Parliament, rather than upholding a democratic ideal. Their hypocritical posturing around the misleading concept of parliamentary supremacy kicks into action selectively and they go all-out to defend the Zardari regime with an antiquated theory that goes against the grain of our Constitution.The trichotomy of power envisaged by our Constitution has no room for the absolute supremacy of Parliament that these one-eyed champions of democracy harp upon. The Constitution is clear about the authority of the judiciary to strike down any law made by Parliament that violates the Constitution. It is the constitutional responsibility of the judiciary to interpret the Constitution as well. And no elected government or Parliament could take away these constitutional powers. Even if every political party in Parliament decides to take away these powers, they could not do it through a Parliament that has been elected under the existing Constitution. So Parliament is restricted to act within the confines of the constitutional framework. Only a Constituent Assembly elected with the mandate to change this framework and come up with a new Constitution could undertake such an exercise.The present hullabaloo around the concept of parliamentary supremacy is clearly designed as a weapon against the independent judiciary to make it ineffective. How could the judiciary fulfil its duty if it is rendered powerless when it comes to the President, Prime Minister, Governors, Chief Ministers and Ministers? The message is clear: those in positions of power stand above the law and are under no obligation to obey the orders of the courts. They are allowed to flout court orders, even ridicule and malign the honourable judges without any fear of being punished. This is the latest battle in Zardari’s long war against the judiciary that has continued ever since Benazir Bhutto was murdered and he took over the PPP. The various ways in which he tried to stop the restoration of the sacked judges and subvert it after restoration are all well known, regardless of the false pronouncements about respecting the judiciary routinely made by the PPP government.The intellectual poverty of our so-called progressive intelligentsia when it comes to issues of democratic governance is reflected in their biased formulations that make no distinction between the ideals of democracy and the fascistic order being fashioned by Zardari in the name of democracy. They are willing to twist any concept to suit the power interests and justify the power games played by their Machiavellian philosopher king. 

The writer is a freelance columnist.Email: