‘Lenient’ SC view in PTI march case irks govt

Published December 3, 2022
Supreme Court justices Ijazul Ahsan, Umar Ata Bandial and Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.—DawnNewsTV
Supreme Court justices Ijazul Ahsan, Umar Ata Bandial and Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi.—DawnNewsTV

ISLAMABAD: A federal government counsel wondered on Friday how many times the Supreme Court would allow PTI chief Imran Khan to make incorrect statements before issuing a show-cause notice for allegedly flouting the top court’s orders regarding his party’s May 25 march.

Salman Aslam Butt, who was representing the interior ministry before a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, argued that PTI leaders were making contradictory and false statements before the court, “as they always intended to reach D-Chowk instead of the allocated ground between Islamabad’s G-9 and H-9 sectors”.

The hearing was for a federal government’s contempt-of-court petition against the PTI leadership, including its head Imran Khan, for allegedly reneging on categorical assurances not to reach D-Chowk — a large town square located close to several important government buildings — in relation to the march organised after Mr Khan was deposed by a no-confidence vote in parliament.

The counsel’s reply came in response to Justice Ijazul Ahsan’s observation that the party was claiming that the marchers would have never reached D-Chowk if permission to stage the rally at the allocated venue had been granted earlier.

At this, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi wondered whether D-Chowk was a prohibited area.

“Yes, it is,” Mr Butt retorted and referred to PTI’s 126-day-long sit-in of 2014 when he said the party was allowed to hold the demonstration at Aabpara, but the protesters instead barged into the red zone, even making Supreme Court judges use President House to reach the court office.

The marchers also besieged Parliament House, he argued, adding that the party had been breaching its commitments.

When Justice Naqvi wondered about the authenticity of the material consisting of video messages and tweets of the PTI leadership, Mr Butt reminded that the PTI had never denied the material that was presented by the government and retrieved from the party’s official website “and therefore authentic”.

Showing several video clips and tweets issued on May 25, the counsel tried to establish that Imran Khan had given the call to reach D-Chowk whenever he made announcements.

“From the record, I will show they [the PTI leadership] had started making calls to reach D-Chowk since May 24 and their intention was to stage a dharna at D-Chowk,” the counsel said.

All the video clips shown to the court displayed Mr Khan asking his supporters to reach D-Chowk by crossing all hurdles.

Justice Naqvi wondered about evidence to establish PTI leader Asad Umar actually conveyed to Mr Khan about his undertaking to the court. He also reminded the counsel that the court was not cross-examining the respondent and that no trial was being conducted now.

Justice Naqvi also emphasised that contempt of court had always been a matter between the court and the contemnor.

The counsel said he would address the issue during the hearing, reminding again that the PTI leadership had never objected to any of the tweets presented to the court and that criminal proceedings had not yet been initiated since the court had not issued any show-cause notice.

Moreover, a formal trial will begin when he succeeds in convincing the court that contempt has been committed.

Chief Justice Bandial observed that the court itself had called for reports from the security agencies and the police to understand whether the PTI leadership breached the commitment.

He explained that the court had to intervene in view of the circumstances prevailing on May 25 since tampers ran high and the mob was out of control.

That was why the court had to issue not a traditional order since the court wanted to protect the fundamental rights of the people, Justice Bandial said.

He also observed that since there were gaps in the case, the court chose to seek a response from the parties and not to issue a show-cause notice against the PTI leadership.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that the federal government had initiated a fresh proceeding and the present one was not in the continuation of the previous hearings but questioned about locus standi — the right or ability to bring legal action to a court of law or to appear in a court — of the federal government to file the present petition.

Justice Yahya Afridi, who in his earlier dissenting note held that reports furnished by security agencies and the police apparently made out a contempt case against the PTI leadership, observed that the court would proceed in the contempt matter if it was convinced.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2022

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