IHC bench led by IHC CJ Aamer Farooq to conduct hearing on petition filed against PTI Chairman’s conviction in Toshakhana case tomorrow
ISLAMABAD ( Web News )
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) on Tuesday filed an appeal in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) challenging the trial court’s verdict and sentence against party chief Imran Khan, requesting that the court declare the judgment “illegal”.
“It is most respectfully prayed that the Hon’ble Court may graciously be pleased to set aside the impugned judgment dated 05.08.2023, and declare the conviction, sentence imposed upon the Appellant to be illegal and without lawful authority and to acquit the Appellant of the charges framed against him,” the petition read.
A two-member IHC bench led by IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri will conduct the hearing on the petition tomorrow (Wednesday).
Imran Khan was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of Rs.100,000 by Additional District and Sessions Judge Islamabad (WEST) Humayun Dilawar on August 5, 2023, after the judge found Khan guilty of graft in the Toshakhana case — a move likely to bar him from standing in elections due later this year.
Following the arrest of the PTI chief, this is the third petition the party has filed — one of which was filed in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
While the previous petition in the IHC sought to have Imran Khan transferred to Adiala Jail from Attock Jail, where he is currently incarcerated, this 22-page long petition seeks the denunciation and overturning of the conviction altogether on a number of grounds.
One of the reasons cited in the petition for the request is that the impugned judgment is “totally misdirected”, failing to consider that for purposes of proving a criminal charge the actus reus and the men reus is the responsibility of the prosecution, not the defendant.
“The prosecution has miserably failed to discharge its onus against the appellant and, as such, the impugned judgment is unwarranted by law,” the petition added.
Moreover, the petition contended that ADSJ Dilawar’s verdict had been based on “hyper-technical” grounds and “misreading”.
“The learned trial judge has returned a finding of guilt against the accused on hyper-technical grounds, and that too by misreading and misconceiving the law, and not on the basis of any tangible evidence in support of the charge framed against the accused, which evidence, nonetheless, is utterly lacking in the instant case.”
The petition also alleged that the judge had not given due consideration to a number of pertinent matters, including the fact that Khan’s accountant has mentioned the cost at which these assets were acquired in the “relevant column of Form-B”, under “Precious Items” as per his expertise.
“As a matter of fact all that the learned judge has to say regarding the defence of the appellant is to make a cursory almost derisive reference to it,” the complaint added.
The petition also alleged that the trial was not fair and the verdict — “tainted with bias and a “nullity in the eye of the law” — pre-decided in that it “seemingly took him [the judge] just 30 minutes to dictate more than 35 pages which constitute the impugned judgment”.
“The impugned judgment having been written even before hearing the appellant’s counsel in support of the defence is a nullity in the eye of the law and liable to be set aside as such,” the petition contended.
Separately, the IHC granted Imran Khan’s lawyers permission to meet the PTI chief at Attock Jail as the court took up a petition filed by the party seeking A-Class facilities for the ex-premier.
It urged that Imran be allowed to regularly meet with his legal team, family members, personal doctor Dr Faisal Sultan and political aides — the lists for which were also submitted to the court.
After his arrest, Imran was given B-Class facilities by the Punjab prisons department. However, his lawyers and the party claimed they were not allowed by the jail administration to meet the PTI chairman.
A day earlier, Naeem Haider Panjotha, spokesman to Imran Khan on legal affairs, was finally allowed to meet the PTI chief. Talking to reporters after the meeting, which lasted one hour and 45 minutes, the lawyer said Imran was being kept in “distressing conditions” and provided “C-Class jail facilities”.
On Tuesday, the IHC registrar initially raised objections to the petition, which were later removed by PTI lawyer Sher Afzal Marwat.
During the hearing, IHC CJ Aamer Farooq said that the court would issue an order as per the prison rules. “Keep this in mind that an order will be released for the provision of those facilities that are mentioned in the prison rules.”
The judge then asked Marwat to provide the names of two to three lawyers for meeting with Imran, adding that an order would be issued according to that.
In an order issued later in the day, the court said PTI lawyers Umair Niazi, Marwat and Panjotha would be allowed to meet Imran Khan.
“The jail authorities at Attock Jail shall provide due counsel access to the petitioner for signatures on Wakalatnama and instructions as provided in Jail Manual and other laws,” it added.
The case, filed by ruling party lawmakers, is based on a criminal complaint filed by the ECP.
The case alleges that Imran had “deliberately concealed” details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana — a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept — during his time as the prime minister and proceeds from their reported sales.
According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
Imran has faced a number of legal issues over his retention of gifts. The issue also led to his disqualification by the ECP.
On Oct 21, 2022, the ECP concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.
The watchdog’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
Subsequently, the ECP had approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the complaint, seeking proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as the prime minister.
On May 10, Imran was indicted in the case. However, on July 4, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had stayed the proceeding and directed ADSJ Dilawar to re-examine the matter in seven days, keeping in view eight legal questions he framed to decide the maintainability of the Toshakhana reference.
The questions had included whether the complaint was filed on behalf of the ECP by a duly authorised person, whether the ECP’s decision of Oct 21, 2022, was a valid authorisation to any officer of ECP to file a complaint, and whether the question of authorisation was a question of fact and evidence and could be ratified subsequently during the course of proceedings.
Finally, on July 9, ADSJ Dilawar while ruling that the reference was maintainable, revived the stalled proceedings and summoned the witnesses for testimony.
A session court had last month declared that the ECP reference against the PTI chief was maintainable. The decision was subsequently challenged in the IHC.
Last week, Judge Dilawar had ruled that Imran’s legal team failed to prove the relevance of his witnesses. He had warned the defence counsel to conclude the arguments, or else the court would reserve an order.
On August 3, the IHC gave a short breather to Imran, asking the judge to re-examine the jurisdiction and any procedure lapse in the filing of the complaint by the ECP. However, a day later, the trial court convicted the ex-premier.