IHC directs Imran Khan to resubmit response in contempt of court case in seven days Justice Athar Minallah says he was ‘disappointed’ by response of Imran Khan in the case

IHC directs PTI Chairman Imran Khan to resubmit response in contempt of court case in seven days

Justice Athar Minallah says he was ‘disappointed’ by response of Imran Khan in the case

ISLAMABAD ( Web News )

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed on Wednesday Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan to resubmit his response within the next seven days in the contempt of court case against him for threatening a female judge.

A five-member larger bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah and comprising Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri and Justice Babar Sattar heard the case.

In response to the IHC’s show-cause notice in the case, the PTI chairman did not apologise for threatening additional sessions judge of Islamabad, Zeba Chaudhry, offering, however, to withdraw his remarks “if they were inappropriate.”

The IHC CJ, during the hearing on Wednesday, said he was “disappointed” by the response of Imran Khan in the case. He asked him to review his response and submit it once more.

Without asking Imran Khan to come to the rostrum, the court adjourned the hearing and ordered that the response can be submitted through the PTI chairman’s counsel.

At the outset of the hearing on Wednesday, Imran Khan’s lawyer Hamid Khan Advocate came forward and took the stand. IHC CJ Athar Minallah told him that although he was Khan’s lawyer, he was also there to assist the court. “I did not expect this from you,” the IHC CJ said in response to the reply that the lawyer submitted on behalf of Khan.

IHC CJ Minallah noted that a political party should always believe in upholding the law and the constitution. “In the last 70 years, a common man has not been able to make it to the high courts and the Supreme Court.”

The IHC CJ said that he was “disappointed” by the response that Imran Khan submitted in response to the show-cause notice.

“The response that was submitted was not of the stature of a political leader like Khan.”

Justice Minallah said that he hoped that the PTI chairman would boost the court’s confidence, however, it should be noted that just like “the time that has passed by cannot come back, the words uttered through one’s tongue cannot be taken back”.

The court said that Khan is a popular leader and has a massive following, therefore, he should think before he speaks.

“I was expecting that he [Khan] might come to terms with the fact that he has done something wrong. A political leader has several followers, they should think before they speak.”

“Through your response, I feel that Imran Khan has not understood that he has done anything wrong,” the IHC CJ told the PTI chairman’s lawyer.

In the last three years — during PTI’s tenure — the IHC has raised the issue of torture without any fear, noting that the state has encouraged torture in the last 70 years.

“Torture, at any level, cannot be allowed. Is there a worse form of torture than making someone disappear?” the court asked, as the PTI keeps claiming that party leader Shahbaz Gill was tortured by the police.

Taking forward the PTI’s claims, Khan had earlier this month went on to criticise the additional district and sessions judge for rejecting his bail plea of Gill.

Justice Minallah asked who had control of Adiala Jail — where Gill was imprisoned for a few days. “If there’s even a small complaint of torture, then can the jail authorities imprison a person without medical examination?”

The IHC CJ went on to say that the PTI should look at the cases of journalists Asad Toor and Absar Alam. He added that during the last three years, the IHC sent such matters to the PTI’s federal cabinet. “I wish they had raised their voice in this regard then.”

During the proceedings, Islamabad Advocate-General Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon tried to speak but was stopped. “This matter is between the person who has allegedly committed contempt of court and the court.”

The IHC CJ then asked when the high court wrapped up the case of the alleged torture of Gill and when the speech was made. At this, Khan’s counsel said that the court concluded the case on August 22 and the PTI chairman delivered the speech on August 20.

“The matter was already pending in the IHC while he made the speech. You should read Firdous Ashiq Awan’s judgment. Under PECA ordinance, the person speaking against institutions will not even get bail for six months.”

This court, IHC CJ said, nullified the PECA ordinance and then a smear campaign was started against it. “However, the courts never care about criticism.”

Moving on, Justice Minallah said that Khan keeps asking why the courts were opened at 12am — during the National Assembly’s vote of no-confidence against the ex-premier in April.

“This court will remain open for the weak 24/7. However, the courts do not need to justify before anyone as to why they open and when.”

“The case of contempt of court is very serious,” he said, noting that the courts opened at 12am was a very clear message that they did not want the repetition of October 12, 1999 — the day when former dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf imposed martial law.

The IHC CJ then said that political leaders are misusing social media as photos of him and a judge of the Supreme Court were made viral and they were termed as leaders of a political party.

“Wrong information was shared regarding a flat registered against my name in a foreign country,” he said, adding that his institution has also committed several mistakes.

The IHC CJ said that political parties do not prohibit their followers from uploading such posts. “If a leader tells their workers to stop, this will indeed stop.” In response, Imran Khan’s counsel asked whether he could speak.

The lawyer said that he was aware that the court was disappointed by the response, but noted that the petition raised general legal points. “However, I do not want to raise them now.”

The IHC CJ then said that this was an open court and everything happening over here is transparent and that he would not allow the contempt of court proceedings to be misused.

The court then said that this case also includes the matter pertaining to freedom of speech.

The lawyer then argued that he has also raised the point of dismissing the case as Khan had no intention of saying something like that against the judge.

The court then noted that the matter of Gill’s torture was already being heard at the IHC. “Check the record, then submit your response again, otherwise this court will take the matter forward.”

“This matter is very serious, the contempt of court proceedings could have ended today, but they aren’t due to the response that was submitted.”

Justice Athar Minallah expressed his disappointment over Imran Khan’s written response in a contempt case as he appeared before the court on Wednesday amidst tight security. During the proceedings, the CJ said “we have read your written response” before adding that he “did not expect what was stated” about the lower court judges.

“I was expecting that the mistake made would have been admitted,” continued the judge as he expressed his disappointment.

The judge stated that the courts have taken up “sensitive matters” including “torture” and “enforced disappearances”. Reflecting on the seriousness of contempt against the court, he added that judges responsible for upholding justice in serious matters “were opened to criticism”, particularly when Imran Khan “questioned why the court was opened at midnight”. “It has been open to everyone since 2018,” he retorted.

“Should someone of Imran Khan’s stature have done this?” as he lambasted the PTI chief for not having repented over his words.

“No one can influence this court or any judge,” added the judge while saying “this court has to uphold civilian supremacy. These [lower court] judges are more important than the Supreme Court and high courts.”

“Change will come when the constitution will be supreme and civilian supremacy will be upheld,” remarked the judge.

“Please do appreciate the gravity of this matter,” said CJ Minallah as he adjourned the court until September 8 and directed Imran to submit another response.

When the proceedings began, IHC CJ referred to a reply submitted by Imran Khan to the court a day ago and said he was not expecting the “reply that was read out”. Addressing Imran’s lawyer, he added, “Hamid Khan, you are not just Imran Khan’s counsel but also an aide to the court. “It was expected that you would have visited a subordinate court before coming here.”

Justice Minallah remarked that he was saddened by Imran’s reply and the subordinate court referred therein was “the court of the common man”. “The common man still doesn’t have access to the Supreme Court or the high court,” he added.

Continuing, the IHC CJ commented; “Time that has passed and words that have been said cannot be taken back.”

He said he was expecting that Imran would admit to making a mistake in his reply. “I was expecting you will go to courts and say that you trust them (the courts),” adding that Imran’s detailed response disappointed him.

Justice Minallah went on to say that questions were raised about a lower court which was for the common man. He asserted that the issue of torture had been raised by the IHC for the past three years.

“Torture cannot be allowed at any level,” Justice Minal­lah said. “Is there a bigger [form of] torture than making a person disappear?”

Look at the cases of Asad Toor and Absar Alam, he went on, adding that the court had sent these matters to the federal government in the last three years but no action was taken.

At one point, the IHC CJ remarked that the PTI chief did not seem to realise the gravity of what he had said.

During the hearing, the IHC CJ asked whose administrative control Adiala Jail was under. “Do jail authorities admit the accused without a medical check-up even when there is suspicion of torture,” he questioned.

The chief justice also asked when Gill’s petition in the IHC was disposed and the day Imran delivered his speech.

The advocate general replied that petition was disposed on Aug 22, while the PTI rally was held on Aug 20.

“So the matter was still pending in the IHC when the speech was delivered,” Justice Minallah observed.

He went on that under the PECA Ordinance, bails were not granted for as long as six months in cases pertaining to the criticism of institutions. “But when the court declared this null and void, a campaign was run against us.”

But the court never cared about anything, the IHC chief justice continued.

As Imran entered the court premises alone, journalists inquired if he would apologise for his remarks to which he responded “I have submitted my response to the court”.

He also remarked “I wonder why there is so much fear,” in a casual conversation with the media before Shah Mehmood Qureshi prevented journalists from further questioning.

A day earlier, Imran Khan had petitioned the high court praying that the terrorism case against him be quashed and offered to take back his words against a district and sessions judge.

The PTI chairman did not apologise for threatening additional sessions judge of Islamabad, offering, however, to withdraw his remarks “if they were inappropriate.”

“As someone who believes in rule of law and a strong independent justice system, the respondent does not believe in hurting the feelings of honorable judges.

“The respondent submits with humility that if words he uttered is regarded as inappropriate, he is willing to take them back,” he said, urging the court to evaluate the speech within the context it was made.

Imran Khan added that his remarks against the additional sessions judge were not obstruction of justice, nor were they intended to undermine the integrity and credibility of the judicial system.

On August 23, a larger bench of the IHC issued a show-cause notice to Imran Khan after taking up contempt of court proceedings against him for threatening additional sessions judge during a public rally.

The bench comprised Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Babar Sattar.

The court summoned Imran Khan in personal capacity on August 31, and forwarded the case to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, seeking the inclusion of more judges on the bench.

The PTI chair had staged a rally in the federal capital on August 20 to express solidarity with his chief of staff Dr. Shahbaz Shabbir Gill after claims of torture inflicted on him in custody. He warned the Islamabad inspector-general and deputy inspector-general that he would “not spare” them, vowing to file cases against them for subjecting Gill to alleged inhuman torture.

Turning his guns towards the additional sessions judge, who sent Gill into physical remand on the police’s request, Khan then said she [the judge] should brace herself for consequences.