Why govt filed contempt case against Imran Khan, asks Supreme Court

December 03, 2022

The Supreme Court questioned the interior ministry’s request to initiate contempt proceedings against Imran stating that contempt is a matter between the court and the contemnor.

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan. The SC website.

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) questioned the interior ministry’s request to initiate contempt proceedings against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan on Friday, stating that contempt is a matter between the court and the contemnor.

A five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial resumed hearing into the petition of the interior ministry seeking to initiate contempt proceedings under Article 204 of the Constitution against PTI Chief Imran Khan for flouting and disregarding the orders of the apex court passed on May 25, 2022, in the petition filed by the Islamabad High Court Bar Association.

It had prayed for the passage of appropriate orders for the implementation of the apex court on May 26 and the protection of the fundamental rights of the public at large, particularly the residents of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

During proceedings on Friday, Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial said that contempt is a matter between the court and the alleged contemnor. “In this case, we’re looking at the respondent’s (Imran Khan) actions and whether he did anything that amounted to disobeying the order.”

The chief justice said that they have to see the fact of communication between the respondent and his party colleagues. “What is the effect of calling off the protest? We need to look into the situation,” the chief justice said.

Another member of the bench, Justice Yahya Afridi, questioned why the interior ministry felt the need to file a plea seeking contempt proceedings when the court had already issued an order.

Salman Akram Raja, counsel for the PTI chairman, submitted before the court that he has already submitted a reply on behalf of his client in response to the documents filed by the interior ministry.

At the outset of the hearing, Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial said that the court, beyond tradition, had issued an order under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, adding that, had the respondent (Imran Khan) not called off the sit-in at D-Chowk, then the court would have made further proceedings.

The chief justice inquired whether the people gathered at D-Chowk were locals or Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, workers. Therefore, two questions are very important: first, whether Imran Khan knew about the court’s order, and second, whether he committed contempt despite the order passed by the court.

Salman Aslam Butt, counsel for the Ministry of Interior, submitted before the court that the respondent, Imran Khan, had submitted a false statement in his reply. Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi asked the counsel how the interior ministry could seek contempt proceedings against the respondent in a matter that has become infructuous.

The judge said that the contempt matter is between the court and the contemnor. “You are asking for the initiation of criminal proceedings against the respondent, who could also make a hundred statements, and there is no embargo on anyone for giving statements.”

“Either the statement filed by the respondent is false or right; you have to establish it,” Justice Naqvi asked the interior ministry counsel. “We are sitting here without passion,” Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi told the counsel.

“Yes, I know, but I will be the last person standing in this court to support giving an incorrect statement,” Salman Aslam Butt replied. Referring to the stance taken by the PTI chairman in his reply that he had violated the court’s order of May 25 unintentionally, the counsel for the interior ministry claimed that he has a full record of the fact that the court order had reached Imran.

Salman Aslam Butt said that the respondent, Imran Khan, had given the call on May 24 for reaching the D-Chowk. The counsel questioned how often the apex court would allow the respondent to make incorrect statements.

Advancing his arguments, he submitted that he will place on record the USB, which has full content as well as details of the statements of the PTI leaders. He submitted that the statement of the respondent that there were jammers around his container was also not true.

Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi said that the apex court is not a trial court, to which Salman Aslam Butt submitted that when the court issues a show-cause notice to Imran Khan, then the apex court will proceed as a trial court.

Justice Naqvi said that the contempt case against Imran Khan has become infructuous, adding that he will have to establish that the matter is maintainable. The judge stated that contempt is between the court and the alleged contemnor.

Salman Aslam Butt said that contempt proceedings could be initiated based on the available contents, adding that the applicant can also ask for contempt proceedings. Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked the counsel whether this is the new proceeding in this matter, and if it is, then the court has already received content from security agencies regarding May 25, 2022.

Justice Yahya Afridi said that when the reports of the agencies are available, the court can proceed with the matter. The chief justice said that, in pursuance of the court’s direction, sufficient evidence of contempt had been received by the court.

Salman Akram Raja, counsel for PTI Chairman Imran Khan, said that his client (Imran Khan) never came to D-Chowk. The chief justice said that the respondent himself did not come but had asked party workers to reach the area.

“In this case, we are looking at the respondent’s action to determine whether he has committed an act that is tantamount to disobeying the order of this court, and what is the effect of calling off the protest? We need to look into it,” the CJP remarked.

Salman Aslam Butt, counsel for the interior ministry, said that PTI general secretary Asad Umer accompanied Imran Khan on the container. Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial said that contempt proceedings are not aimed at punishing anyone but at implementing the court’s order in letter and spirit.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen said that PTI intended to reach D-Chowk, and the party had assured the court to clear out the roads to the venue. The judge said that Imran Khan himself did not appear before the court and give the assurance, which is why he denied it in his reply.

“So it has to be proven that the assurance given to the court was on the direction of the PTI chief,” Justice Ijazul Ahsen said, adding that if any contempt was committed, the responsibility would fall on the two gentlemen lawyers who represented the party in court, Babar Awan and Faisal Farid Chaudhry.

The Chief Justice told the counsel for the interior ministry that he would have to establish that Imran Khan was quite aware of the court’s order and that he had violated the court’s order. Similarly, Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi asked the counsel during the proceedings whether D-Chowk is a restricted area.

Salman Aslam Butt replied that it is in a “red zone,” where lodging protests are prohibited. The counsel, while giving a record of the PTI protest, submitted that in the year 2014, the PTI had blocked the routes leading to the Supreme Court as well as the parliament by staging a sit-in, causing severe problems for traffic.

Meanwhile, the chief justice appreciated Salman Aslam Butt for making good preparations in the instant case. “But you must allow us time to offer Friday prayers,” the CJP told the counsel, adding that because the court will resume hearing in the NAB amendments case next week on Tuesday, they may adjourn the current proceeding until next Friday.



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