ISLAMABAD: A day before the Islamabad High Court is to take up a contempt case against Imran Khan, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief pleaded before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday that the judges who had agreed to initiate the case should consider withdrawing themselves from the bench as, according to him, they had pre-judged the matter.

A reply submitted by Mr Khan, through Hamid Khan and Barrister Salman Safdar, recalled a court order passed by the then acting chief justice last week, after receiving a note from the deputy registrar, in which he said the matter was discussed in the tea room and all his colleagues unanimously agreed that “we should proceed forward”.

A five-judge IHC bench, consisting of Chief Justice Athar Minal­lah, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kay­ani, Justice Miangul Hassan Aur­an­gzeb, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri and Justice Babar Sattar, will commence the contempt proceedings against Mr Khan on Wednesday (today). The case pertains to a speech by the PTI chief at a rally in Islamabad on Aug 20 in which he “intimidated” a female judge, Zeba Chaudhry.

The high court issued a show-cause notice to the PTI chairman on Aug 25 with a directive to appear before it in person.

In his reply to IHC, PTI chief says he’s ready to ‘take back’ his words if they are regarded as inappropriate

In the reply, Mr Khan urged the IHC to discharge the show-cause notice and dispose of the contempt matter, saying he believed in the rule of law and an independent justice system. “I do not believe in hurting the feelings of judges.”

Mr Khan also said he was ready to “take back” his words if they are “regarded as inappropriate”, urging the court to examine the content of his speech in the context of his intention, which was ‘bona fide’.

The reply explained that the respondent was under a misconception that Ms Zeba Chaudhry was an executive magistrate carrying out executive or administrative functions on the federal government’s orders.

The government was “bent upon torturing and violating” the fundamental rights of Shahbaz Gill, the PTI chief said about his chief aide.

“It was under this misconception that she was referred to as magistrate,” the reply said, adding the respondent did not mean to threaten the judicial officer or to say anything which brings the administration of law into disrepute.

The reply contended that no contempt was committed by the respondent and that the deputy registrar picked words selectively from his Aug 20 speech during a public meeting at Islamabad’s F-9 Park.

“These words were taken totally out of context and splashed all over the print and electronic media to give an impression as if the respondent (Imran Khan) intended to take the law into his hands.”

The PTI chairman said a mistaken impression was gathered from his speech, which was actually meant to “raise awareness about the rule of law and fundamental rights”, that he intended to belittle the judiciary.

The reply acknowledged that the high court may have initiated the contempt proceedings to allay its concerns about threats facing the subordinate judiciary, but added even these proceedings were being used for “political point-scoring to the federal government’s advantage”.

The reply alleged that while Shahbaz Gill was in the custody of Islamabad police, the federal interior and information ministers continued to “leak video clips to a select group of journalists”.

The PTI chief alleged that the contempt proceedings were initiated on the basis of clippings from those newspapers which were against him.

The reply said the respondent became anxious after watching “visuals of physical torture” and hearing about “sexual abuse” of Shahbaz Gill in police custody.

Jurisdiction

The reply questioned the contempt proceedings against Imran Khan, arguing it was without jurisdiction. Moreover, it contended, a high court cannot invoke any suo motu jurisdiction since it can result in undermining of the rule of law and due process. It said the deputy registrar misinterpreted the law and his own powers since he had no authority under the Islamabad High Court Act 2010 or the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003.

To protect the rights of all parties and to ensure due process, the law provides a proper course, saying the power to punish for contempt of subordinate courts, vested at present in high courts, can only be exercised after receipt of a reference from a subordinate court.

Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2022

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