• Imran tells reporters it would be unwise for him to comment on ongoing talks with powerful quarters
• Rules out return of party’s lawmakers to National Assembly
• AAG says ex-PM did not tender an ‘unconditional apology’
ISLAMABAD: A larger bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday dismissed a contempt case against former prime minister Imran Khan for threatening a sessions judge, Zeba Chaudhry, during a rally at F-9 Park on Aug 20.
As the court wrapped up contempt proceedings against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman after expressing satisfaction with the apology tendered in the case, Chief Justice Athar Minallah said the conduct of the former premier and his visit to the court of Judge Chaudhry was enough to quash the show notice issued in the case.
Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani, Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, Justice Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri, and Justice Babar Sattar were other members of the bench. Mr Khan appeared before the court along with his counsel Hamid Khan while PTI leaders also accompanied him to the courtroom.
During the hearing, Hamid Khan apprised the court that in compliance with the directives of the IHC, Imran Khan has submitted a written affidavit. On Sept 22, the bench sought the affidavit when Imran Khan expressed regret over his remarks and offered to tender an apology to the judge in question.
In his affidavit, the PTI chief stated that he “might have crossed a line” in his criticism of the additional district and sessions judge and was willing to apologise to her “if she got an impression” that he had crossed a line.
He further stated that he had “realised during these proceedings before the honourable court that he might have crossed a red line while making a public speech on August 20, 2022”. However, he added, he never intended to threaten Judge Chaudhry, and “there was no intention behind the statement to take any action other than legal action”.
He said he wanted to assure the IHC that he was willing to explain and clarify before Judge Chaudhry that “neither he nor his party seeks/sought any action” against her and he was willing to apologise to her “if she got an impression that the deponent (Imran) had crossed a line”.
Imran Khan also gave assurance to the court that he would not do anything that would hurt the dignity of any court and the judiciary, especially the lower judiciary.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Minallah remarked that the bench has examined the affidavit and since Mr Khan has already visited the sessions court to tender an apology, he has shown his bona fide in a matter that prima facie was contemptuous.
Additional Attorney General Amir Rehman pointed out that Mr Khan did not tender an unconditional apology.
Justice Minallah observed that Mr Khan’s conduct in the case and especially his visit to the courtroom of Ms Chaudhry to seek forgiveness was sufficient to discharge the contempt proceeding.
AAG Rehman, however, sought the court’s permission to bring the previous conduct of Mr Khan on the record.
Justice Minallah asked the AAG if he wanted to cite contempt of court proceedings against PML-N leaders Daniyal Aziz, Talal Chaudhry, and Nehal Hashmi as precedent.
The bench declared that since the court was satisfied with the conduct and affidavit of Mr Khan, therefore, all the members of the bench unanimously decided to discharge the show cause notice. The bench allowed AAG Rehman to produce any objection before the court which would be addressed in the detailed order.
Talks with powers-that-be
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Imran Khan criticised a decision regarding the release of the passport of the PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz.
“This shows there is no rule of law in the country,” he said, adding that the ‘thieves’ were being granted NRO.
About the resignation of PTI lawmakers, he added that the party MNAs would never return to the National Assembly.
In response to a question about his interaction with the powers-that-be, Mr Khan replied that the politicians believed in political dialogue. Mr Khan, while responding to a question about a reported meeting with the army chief at the President’s House, said, “It is not wise to comment on the issue when negotiations are ongoing.”
It may be noted here that during an interview last week, Imran Khan had refused to answer a question about meeting Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and said: “I don’t lie and I cannot tell the truth.”
The PTI chairman said he would not tender an apology to Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja and called Mr Raja a “corrupt man”. He, however, declined to answer a question about the controversial cipher and responded with a laugh instead.
He, however, added that there would be no dialogue with the ‘crooks’.
Reacting to the relief in the case, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz tweeted that the case against Imran Khan was “open and shut”. She claimed that instead of saying the case had been discharged, it would be appropriate to say that the ‘troublemaker’ had been pardoned.
However, senior lawyers think otherwise. Former additional attorney general Tariq Mehmood Khokhar said that contempt of court laws do not enhance the dignity, moral authority, or public legitimacy of courts. These laws are invoked when judicial orders or judgements are violated, the lawyer added in his two cents on the case against Imran Khan.
Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2022