ISLAMABAD: Taking exception to the ongoing anti-judiciary rhetoric of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and other leaders, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday asked the party’s leadership to clear its stance on judiciary.

Hearing a petition filed by former information minister Fawad Chaudhry, in which he asked the court to restrain the police from arresting PTI leaders nominated in over a dozen first information reports (FIRs) registered in connection with Masjid-i-Nabwi incident, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked the counsel representing PTI to seek instruction from the party leadership whether it reposed confidence in the judiciary or otherwise.

“It appears from the public statements made by the petitioner and political leaders of PTI in public meetings that probably they have doubts regarding the independence and impartiality of this court [IHC],” Justice Minallah observed.

The IHC chief justice was referring to PTI leadership’s criticism on opening of the Supreme Court and the IHC on the evening of April 9 as if it was an extraordinary act.

Justice Minallah says it appears from party leaders’ statement they had doubts about IHC’s impartiality

He remarked that “it is a constitutional duty of a court and every judge to decide cases in accordance with law. However, simultaneously, it is also the duty of a court to ensure that justice is not only done, but is also seen to have been done,” adding that “in case there is doubt in the mind of a litigant regarding the independence and impartiality of a court or a judge, then justice cannot be seen to have been done.”

However doubt ought to be based on the basis of reasonable grounds, the court noted.

Justice Minallah rejected the political narrative regarding the events on the evening of April 9, terming it “misconceived”.

He reminded that the IHC during PTI’s 2014 sit-in had issued a restraining order against the arrest of dozens of its workers late at night.

Justice Minallah remarked that the court sometimes entertained the petitions of urgent nature even after the notified timings, adding that, “nonetheless, neither the august Supreme Court nor this court had held any proceedings nor orders were passed in the evening of April 9”.

Notwithstanding that no proceedings had caused any prejudice to the petitioners or the PTI leaders, it is of utmost importance that they have trust and confidence in the independence and impartiality of the court, he added.

The counsel representing PTI assured the IHC chief justice that they had confidence in the court, but Justice Minallah still preferred that they seek instructions from the petitioners and the party leadership.

“The counsel, therefore, are expected to inform the court on the date fixed, after seeking instructions, whether the petitioners and the leadership of PTI repose confidence in the court to proceed with the petitions in hand,” the court order stated.

The hearing in the case was adjourned till May 12. The bail granting order to Shahbaz Gill was also extended to the said date.

Police in various cities, including the federal capital, had registered FIRs against former prime minister Imran Khan, Fawad Chaudhry, Shahbaz Gill, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Sheikh Rashid Shafique and others under section 295 (defiling the place of worship) and 296 (disturbing religious assembly) of the Pakistan Panel Code (PPC) over Masjid-i-Nabwi incident.

Fawad Chaudhry and Shahbaz Gill had filed the petition through advocate Faisal Hussain Chaudhry, Mohammad Ali Bokhari and other advocates seeking multiple relief including avoid of arrest.

Though, the court was closed on account of Eid holidays, as per the court’s practice a skeleton staff was present to entertain the petitions related to enforcement of fundamental rights.

Published in Dawn,May 10th, 2022

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