IHC issues contempt of court notice to Firdous Ashiq Awan

Updated October 30, 2019

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The court directed Awan to appear in person on November 1 (Friday). — APP/File
The court directed Awan to appear in person on November 1 (Friday). — APP/File

Islamabad High Court on Wednesday issued contempt of court notice to Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, for criticising the institution of judiciary.

The show-cause notice, issued under Section 3 of Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003, said that Awan maligned the IHC while saying that hearing of a petition on the release of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was "a special dispensation".

The court directed Awan to appear in person on November 1 (Friday) at 9am to explain as to why she should not be proceeded under the contempt law.

The notice calls to attention that Awan, while holding a press conference, "criticised the judiciary" and stated that bail granting order to Nawaz Sharif will "open a floodgate of similar requests by prisoners suffering from various diseases".

"That you while maligning the honourable courts went on to say that the case of the accused was heard during the evening 'as a special dispensation' [...] that you as a Special Assistant to the Prime Minister and Spokesperson of the Federal Government made an attempt to scandalise the court in the eyes of the public, thereby, tried to lower the esteem of the judiciary," adds the notice, which does not mention the date of the press conference in question.

"The contents of your press conference about the courts were unwarranted being a Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, more particularly the Spokesperson of the Federal Government," the notice continues, adding: "The act of yours prima-facie attracts a penal action against you under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003."

On Saturday, October 26, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif had filed a petition in IHC, requesting the court to hear the bail plea sooner than October 29 owing to Nawaz's "extremely critical condition". After the hearing, which went into the evening, the court had granted Nawaz bail on medical grounds until Oct 29 in the Al-Azizia reference.

Awan, while holding a presser following the bail, had said the government would want to see such speedy trials for all the under-trial prisoners and in all cases. “We hope this new trend will be applicable to all cases,” she had said.

The special assistant had also remarked that there was no precedent in the past that the executive was asked to take responsibility for the health of a prisoner, referring to the judges' questions during Saturday's hearing. “We are not responsible for his old ailments, including blood pressure and cardiac issues.”

The IHC on Tuesday took up the bail plea again and granted post-arrest bail to Nawaz by suspending his sentence. The court allowed the bail to the former prime minister for eight weeks and asked him to seek further extension from the Punjab government.