ISLAMABAD: Incarcerated founding chairman of the PTI Imran Khan will speak to the Supreme Court on May 16, after Justice Athar Minallah stated on Tuesday that the top court cannot deny an audience to the former prime minister if he wishes to appear before it in person.

Consequently, a five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa, retired to discuss among themselves and then ordered the federal and Punjab governments to facilitate Mr Khan’s appearance via video link from Adiala jail on Thursday.

The court also directed that the order be furnished to the ex-PM and senior counsel Khawaja Haris Ahmed, who earlier represented Imran Khan in the first round of litigation, to respond to the formulations proposed by Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing the federal government’s intra-court appeal (ICA).

Justice Minallah says top court cannot deny audience to ex-premier if he wishes to appear in person

The bench had taken up a set of ICAs moved against its Sept 15 majority decision, which ruled amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) illegal.

At a previous hearing on Oct 31, 2023, the court ordered that Mr Khan be provided with copies of the appeals. If he wished to be represented, the jail superintendent would make the necessary arrangements.

When the case was taken up, Justice Minallah noted the court office had informed him that the respondent wanted to present his point of view in person.

“How can the court deny the respondent access to the court, who was also the petitioner in the first round of litigation, if he wants to appear in person?,” the judge said.

The CJP observed the order had stated that if the respondent wanted to be represented, the jail superintendent would make arrangements, adding that the present case was a matter of law. “We don’t know how a private person can assist the court on legal points,” he wondered.

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan pointed out that Mr Khan had appeared through his counsel, Khawaja Haris Ahmed, in the original petition, and now the matter had come up in the appeal.

The court requested that NAB provide data on the number of cases investigated over the last decade, successful prosecutions, and convictions sustained by the high court and Supreme Court. It also asked about the recovered amounts.

Later, Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar explained to the media that historically, convicted individuals were not allowed to represent themselves in person before the court. However, he said, he would abide by the Supreme Court’s directive.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2024

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