District and sessions court turns down PTI leader's plea seeking discharge from case for 'threatening' ECP
ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court in the capital Saturday rejected Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Senior Vice President Fawad Chaudhry's plea seeking discharge from the sedition case, however, accepted police's plea challenging the judicial magistrate's decision to send him to Adiala Jail on a 14-day judicial remand.
Announcing the verdict that was reserved for a brief period, the court directed the police to present the PTI leader before the judicial magistrate's court — which will decide the duration of Fawad's remand.
Fawad — who is facing sedition charges for publicly “threatening” the members of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in a media talk — had filed a plea seeking his discharge from the case, while police sought nullification of Judicial Magistrate Waqas Ahmed Raja's ruling, and an extension of Fawad's physical remand.
The PTI leader was arrested from his Lahore residence on Wednesday after a case was registered against him at the Kohsar Police Station on the complaint of ECP Secretary Omar Hameed.
He was presented before the court on Friday after the expiry of his physical remand, however, the prosecution’s request for an extension was turned down by Judicial Magistrate Waqas Ahmed Raja.
Today, Fawad’s lawyers submitted a petition that the PTI leader should be discharged from the case instead of being sent on a judicial remand. Accepting the plea for hearing, Sessions Judge Tahir Mehmood Khan issued notices to the prosecutor and the ECP.
Earlier, the police filed a plea requesting the sessions judge to "nullify" the judicial magistrate's decision and extend Fawad's physical remand.
Sessions Judge Tahir,while hearing the police’s plea ordered the authorities to present Fawad before it by 12:30pm. However, the PTI leader couldn't be presented past the deadline.
After a delay of over an hour, the police presented the PTI leader before the court. On the orders of the sessions judge, Fawad was uncuffed inside the premises of the courtroom.
Upon resumption of the proceedings after multiple adjournments, Prosecutor Adnan opposed Fawad's request seeking discharge from the case. Starting his arguments, the prosecutor said that a photogrammetry test had to be performed on Fawad, for which his video had been acquired.
"Fawad needs to be taken to Lahore for the photogrammetry test," Adnan said, adding that they also need to recover his mobile phone, laptop and other electronic devices.
He maintained that the devices need to be analysed to find out the “mastermind behind Fawad’s hateful remarks against the ECP”.
The prosecutor informed the court that the investigation officer (IO) had requested a seven-day physical remand. Urging the court to “nullify” the judicial magistrate’s verdict, he said that the ruling didn't mention the photogrammetry test which is what the IO has been demanding.
Supporting his argument, prosecutor Adnan mentioned that “enough electronic material [content aired on electronic media]" against the PTI leader is available. "Fawad Chaudhry has also owned his statement against the members of the election body,” he informed the court.
During the course of the proceeding, Fawad's lawyer Babar Awan and ECP's lawyer engaged in a heated argument as the former told the latter not to interfere “unnecessarily” in the proceedings.
Fawad’s counsel informed that the court that the former information minister was kept in Adiala Jail, adding that he sought permission to meet his client three days ago, however, he wasn’t allowed as yet.
"The way Fawad was brought in the court was a violation of human rights," Awan said, lamenting that he wasn’t even allowed to meet his legal team.
Following a brief pause as the police brought handcuffed Fawad inside the session judge’s chamber, Awan continued his arguments questioning the prosecutor about the part where the PTI leader threatened the ECP officials.
Taking to the rostrum, Fawad lamented that denying freedom of expression is equivalent to ending democracy in the country.
“Imposing curbs on freedom of expression is similar to making Pakistan a place like Myanmar,” he said, adding that if the people of the country refrain from criticising the powerful then it “won’t be a democratic nation”.
Fawad said that he stands by whatever he said, assuring the court that he won’t back down.
“They [ECP officials] are planning to register a sedition case against me,” he said, adding that if they can’t handle criticism they should not accept such positions.
Meanwhile, Additional Sessions Judge Faizan Gillani also took up PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry's bail plea this morning.
At the outset of today’s hearing, Fawad's counsel Awan appeared before the court and said:
“I am ready for the arguments on the petition."
At this, the judge said he hadn’t received the case file and record and adjourned the proceedings till 10am.
Later, the proceeding was halted after the police submitted a plea challenging decision on the rejection of an extension in physical remand.
The bail petition states that the PTI leader has "falsely been involved in the instant case by the complainant with the malafide intention and ulterior motives just to harass, pressurise and blackmail the present petitioner".
It added that the allegations levelled in the FIR are "absolutely false, frivolous and baseless". It also said that Fawad is "innocent and has no link or concern with the commission of the alleged offence."
The petition also states that Fawad was arrested "unlawfully and without any justification in negation to the law."
Speaking to the journalists outside the court, Fawad's wife Hiba Chaudhry revealed that the PTI leader wasn't being allowed to meet his daughters.
"Fawad was brought with his face covered in a cloth in an armoured vehicle and was presented in the court with handcuffs," she said.
Hiba further added that the judge ordered the police to shift Fawad to the judge's chambers and allow him to meet his family but the orders weren't followed.
Condemned the "behaviour" of Punjab and Islamabad Police, she said that Fawad wasn't being allowed to meet his family either in Adiala Jail or in the court.
She maintained that Fawad's daughters had been waiting to meet him for the last five days.
Hiba requested caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi to allow her daughters to meet their father, and the high courts to take notice of the matter. She further stated that she would file a plea in this regard if needed.
Speaking to journalists, Fawad’s brother Faisal Chaudhry said that they already knew that the police and Election Commission would behave in a “dishonest manner”.
He, however, maintained that all these issue will be highlighted in front of the court. “Detaining any citizen is a violation of fundamental rights,” he said, adding that the legal battle will continue despite state repression.
Faisal termed all cases registered against other PTI leaders, including Azam Swati, “false”.