ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) will decide on Nov 25 whether or not federal Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar Khan and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan should be charged for contempt of court.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah reserved the verdicts on the contempt of court cases against Mr Khan and Dr Awan after both tendered unconditional apologies.

During the hearing, Justice Minallah inquired about the TV programme in which the aviation minister had termed the release of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on bail a deal and even expressed doubt about the veracity of his medical reports.

“When the federal minister expresses doubts on the reports on the basis of which the court has passed an order, it means that he is attempting to lower the confidence of the institution in the eyes of public at large,” he observed.

CJ observes no one will be allowed to lower nation’s confidence in judiciary

The IHC chief justice further observed that the appeal of Mr Sharif was pending before a division bench of the court and, therefore, passing such comments on the court’s proceedings and the medical reports was tantamount to prejudicing the pending case which was a criminal contempt.

While expressing doubts about the reports of a medical board constituted by the government, the minister had indicted his own government, the court noted, adding that the stance of the minister contradicted the position the prime minister had taken on the issue.

Chief Justice Minallah remarked that being an elected member of the National Assembly, a member of the federal cabinet, the representative of hundreds of thousands of his constituents, Mr Khan was respectable for the court. However, the court would not allow anyone to lower the public’s confidence in the judiciary.

At the outset of the hearing, Mr Khan tried to justify his interview in the TV programme and said that it was quoted out of context.

Mr Khan said he was in politics since 1979 and he had always shown respect for courts.

“You are a representative of the federal cabinet,” the IHC chief justice said. “You have raised questions on the medical board.”

The aviation minister said that he had “expressed doubts” about the medical board.

“I never even thought of committing the contempt of court,” he said and requested the court that his comments in the TV talk show be treated as a political statement.

Chief Justice Minallah asked the aviation minister if he intended to contest his alleged contempt and defend what he had said in the TV programme.

Mr Khan’s lawyer said that since the minister had tendered an unconditional apology, he was not contesting.

Talking to reporters after the court proceedings, Mr Khan said that his comment about a deal in the TV programme was a political statement. He said he had tendered an unconditional apology in the court.

Later, both the cabinet members visited the press room in the IHC where they responded to questions by court reporters.

Referring to her video clip in which she claimed that Mr Khan being a grower sold peas for Rs5 per kg, Dr Awan asked the aviation minister to explain himself about its actual price.

“During a recent meeting I told the federal cabinet that I am a grower and had sold 20kg bag of peas for Rs1,000, which is being sold in the market in an exorbitant rate,” Mr Khan said and urged the government to take steps for reducing the profit of the middleman.

Dr Awan said that the prime minister had constituted a committee to address issues of the lower judiciary and besides representatives of lawyers’ bodies, an office-bearer of the Islamabad High Court Journalists Association would be inducted in the committee.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2019