• Escapes indictment as IHC satisfied with apology
• Court asks PTI chief to file affidavit

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday surprised many when he decided against further contesting the contempt proceedings against him and offered to tender an apology before the additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) he gave a ‘controversial’ statement against.

Subsequently, Mr Khan escaped indictment and further proceedings over his ‘intimidating’ speech against the judge. He had been issued a show-case notice in contempt of court proceedings for threatening ADSJ Zeba Chaudhry during his Aug 20 speech at a party rally at the Fatima Jinnah Park here.

Mr Khan appeared before a five-member larger bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri and Justice Babar Sattar.

The court was scheduled to take up the case at 2:30pm, while Mr Khan arrived in the courtroom a couple of minutes earlier.

After entering, he briefly took his seat, but then approached the rostrum when the bench had not even assembled. His counsel Hamid Khan, Barrister Salman Safdar and Shoaib Shaheen advised him to wait until the court convened.

When the court resumed the contempt proceedings, Justice Minallah remarked that “we will only read out the charges today”.

However, Advocate Hamid Khan argued Imran Khan had expressed remorse over his speech and tried to address the bench during the last hearing to clarify his position. He requested the court to grant the right of audience to the PTI chairman so he could make his submission.

With the permission of the bench, Mr Khan dispelled the impression that he had threatened the judge.

“I do apologise if the court feels I have crossed the line,” he said, adding that he was even “ready to go to the judge and tender an apology before her if she feels threatened”.

He submitted that he had struggled for 26 years for the rule of law, respect and independence of the judiciary, and that no other political leader spoke of rule of law in public gatherings. He said he realised during the proceedings that he may have crossed a red line, claiming he never intended to threaten the district court judge and that his intention behind the ‘controversial’ statement was to refer to legal action.

But he wanted to assure the IHC judges that he was willing to clarify before ADSJ Chaudhry that neither he nor his party sought any action against her. He assured the court he would never do anything in the future that would hurt the dignity of the court and the judiciary, especially the lower judiciary.

Lastly, Mr Khan submitted that he was willing to take any further steps the court deemed necessary to satisfy it that he never intended to interfere with the process of the court or impugn the dignity or independence of the judiciary.

The bench then observed: “We are, prima facie, satisfied with the apology rendered by the respondent [Mr Khan]. Let him file an affidavit for consideration of this court before the next date is fixed.”

Further hearing in this matter was adjourned till Oct 3.

Commenting on the court order, former additional attorney general Tariq Mehmood Khokhar told Dawn: “It is a triumph of humility over hubris, prudence over imprudence. A contempt finding would not have enhanced the court’s dignity nor its public legitimacy or moral high ground. It would have undermined democracy. A teetering democracy needed a step back from the precipice. It is also a message to the extra-constitutionalists and their apologists that unwittingly or not, the superior judiciary will no longer kowtow to their diktat.”

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2022

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