ISLAMABAD: With a trial court all set to reserve its order in the Toshakhana case, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) gave a short breather to PTI Chairman Imran Khan, asking the judge to re-examine the jurisdiction and any procedure lapse in the filing of the complaint by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The trial court has now summoned Mr Khan and his counsel for Saturday, as the case is likely to conclude today.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq on Friday decided four petitions by Mr Khan against jurisdiction, alleged defective filing of the complaint, transfer of the case from the court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Huma­yun Dilawar and the controversial Facebook posts of the trial court judge.

The counsel for Mr Khan, Khaw­aja Haris, contended that the IHC had remanded the matter to the trial court by framing different questions about the legal issues involved and granted a seven-day time.

It was argued that even before the lapse of seven days, the matter was decided without providing an opportunity of hearing to the petitioner, as adjournments were sought but the trial court, instead of granting adjournments, dismissed the application.

ECP’s counsel Amjad Pervaiz disputed the contentions of PTI’s chairman’s lawyer and submitted that there is no justification or basis for remitting the matter to a different court as there was no evidence of judge’s misconduct and his alleged bias against the petitioner.

He highlighted the conduct of Mr Khan by saying that the posts on the Facebook account have been found to be fake and fictitious and argued that the same was done to malign the court and bring the judiciary to disrepute.

In rebuttal, Khawaja Haris argued that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) report on the issue of fake posts on Facebook is a unilateral act and cannot form basis for any further action.

Justice Farooq observed, “The matter needs to be probed further and inquiry is to be made by involving all those persons who without verifying the authenticity of the posts used the same to malign a senior judicial officer of Islamabad judiciary, especially, when there is a categorical denial on his part that the referred posts are not from his account.”

The IHC chief justice ruled that the case from a court could only be transferred “in exceptional circumstances where the ground urged or is based on strong reasons or evidence.”

He further observed that “if the transfer is made in routine or casual manner that would destroy the dignity of the court and would be a ploy by a party to drag the matter and malign the Judiciary.”

Arguments by ECP’s counsel

Earlier, the trial court judge concluded the arguments of ECP’s counsel and invited the defence counsel for final arguments.

However, the PTI counsel insisted on adjourning the case due to the non-availability of lead counsel, Khawaja Haris Ahmed.

The judge was even told that advocate Khawaja Haris would not be available for Saturday.

PTI lawyer Mirza Asim Baig appeared before the court and claimed that the Supreme Court had restrained the trial court from announcing the verdict. However, he could not produce the written order when the judge asked for it.

The judge summoned Mr Khan and adjourned further hearings till Saturday (today) for final arguments.

SC disposes of plea

Separately, the Supreme Court (SC) disposed of Mr Khan’s plea, after he withdrew the petition moved to seek delaying the trial proceedings in the Toshakhana reference.

Headed by Justice Yahya Afridi, a three-judge Supreme Court resumed the hearing with the addition of Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi in place of Justice Mussarat Hilali, who earlier sat on the bench, disposed of the plea when senior counsel Khawaja Haris who represented Mr Khan, withdrew the application.

At the last hearing on Aug 2, the SC had turned down the applicant’s plea to stay the trial in the Toshakhana reference proceeding at the court of ASJ Humayun Dilawar.

On Friday, the ECP counsel Amjed Pervez conceded before the SC that under Section 526(8) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the trial court cannot announce its verdict on the Toshakhana reference until it decides the application regarding the transfer of the case first.To a query, Advocate Haris explained the present status of the petitions pending before the high court, adding that the IHC heard four pleas on Thursday, during which requests were also made that the case should be transferred to any other judge other than present ASJ.

The counsel contended that the high court may issue its order on Friday but has not granted any interim relief.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2023

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