Disappointed IHC directs Imran Khan to resubmit response in contempt of court case in 7 days

IHC CJ says leaders like Imran Khan should think before speaking day after he offered to take back his remarks against female judge

Awais Yousafzai

PTI Chairman Imran leaves after a hearing at the Islamabad High Court in the Federal Capital, on August 31, 2022. — Twitter/PTI
PTI Chairman Imran leaves after a hearing at the Islamabad High Court in the Federal Capital, on August 31, 2022. — Twitter/PTI

  • IHC CJ says leaders like Imran Khan should think before speaking.
  • Court gives Khan one week to submit "well-considered" response.
  • IHC adjourns contempt of court proceedings till September 8.

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed on Wednesday PTI Chairman Imran to resubmit a "well-considered" response within the next seven days in the contempt of court case against him for threatening a female judge.

A five-member bench comprising IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, 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, said he was "disappointed" by the response of Khan in the case. He asked him to review his response and submit it once more.

Without asking 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.

Today's hearing

At the outset of the hearing, Khan's lawyer Hamid Khan came forward and took the stand. IHC CJ 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 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."

'Courts never care about criticism'

During the proceedings, Islamabad Advocate-General Jahangir 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 judgement. 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."

Clear message against Oct 12, 1999

"The case of contempt of court is very serious," he said, noting that the courts opening 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 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, 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."

'Matter very serious'

The IHC CJ then said that this was an open court and everything happening over here is transparent and that he would not allow 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."

'Court cannot go against the verdicts of SC'

During the course of proceedings, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb remarked that Imran Khan has been given another chance to submit a reply to the show-cause notice.

“This court cannot go against the verdicts of the Supreme Court,” remarked Justice Minallah and advised Khan’s counsel to understand the seriousness of the matter and submit a reply carefully.

“Change will come in this country only when all institutions do their work according to the constitution,” noted the IHC CJ.

At this, Hamid Khan said that his client had no intention to say this about the judicial officer.

Justice Minallah said that the only concern of this court is the independence of the judiciary and directed the lawyer to read out three verdicts of the SC in this regard.

Meanwhile, the court ordered Imran Khan to submit his reply to the show-cause notice within seven days again.

During the proceedings, Khan’s counsel suggested appointing Munir A Malik as a judicial assistant. Replying to the lawyer, the CJ said that the nation is divided and asked him to name a person with such a reputation that he is acceptable to everyone. The attorney general, however, suggested the name of Makhdoom Ali Khan.

Justice Minallah also directed the representative of the federal government to review the sedition and treason cases.

The proceedings could have been concluded today but they will have to continue the proceedings after this reply, remarked Justice Aurangzeb.

“You accuse us that Pakistan’s judiciary ranks 130th in the world,” Justice Minallah said, adding that they had told Fawad Chaudhry in a case that the number was of the executive.

Meanwhile, the IHC adjourned the hearing till September 8.

Khan offers to take back remarks against judge

A day earlier, 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.

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.

The case

On August 23, a larger bench of the IHC issued a show-cause notice to 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 Babar Sattar and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb.

The court summoned 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 Shahbaz 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.

'Judge should've been charged for insulting Khan'

In response, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz sarcastically remarked that the female judge should be charged with contempt of court.

"The female judge should be charged with contempt of court as she insulted Imran Khan," she said in a sarcastic tweet.