Friday May 24, 2024

IHC CJ trolled by PTI online

Saturday, PTI’s official account on X -tweeted/posted a photo accusing the IHC CJ of various offences

By Zebunnisa Burki
August 27, 2023
Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq. — IHC website/File
Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq. — IHC website/File

KARACHI: Legal experts say that Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Aamer Farooq can initiate contempt of court proceedings based on the online posts by the PTI’s official accounts targeting the IHC CJ with allegations of bias and misconduct.

On Saturday, the PTI’s official account on X (former Twitter) -- @PTIofficial -- had tweeted/posted a photo accusing the IHC CJ of various offences. Other PTI accounts had also followed suit, with the @PTIKPOffical account posting a video asking Justice Aamer Farooq “principled questions”, which include serious allegations against the judge. The same video was tweeted by the @PTOfficalISB account.

On August 25 (Friday), PTI Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan had posted on X: “Continued denial of justice to [Imran Khan] casts a slur on the face of the judiciary. CJ of IHC is acting impudently when caught naked in the act of complicity with [J]udge Dilawar in wrongfully awarding conviction verdict in a fake & fraudulent case. He is delaying justice by announcing unwarranted adjournments which is further compounded by holding [the] PTI legal team in ille gal confinement inside a lift at the IHC. If any case ever merited a suo motu notice, this is it. Will the CJP act to save whatever little is left of the judiciary in the country, or is the race on to degenerating to a banana republic?”

Given the social media campaign regarding the IHC chief justice, there has been a question over whether there could be room for a contempt case against the party or its social media handles.

Advocate of the Supreme Court Zahid F Ebrahim says: “Yes. It would qualify as contempt” but adds that “However, it’s open season these days, with all sides attacking judges. A most unfortunate situation which undermines the entire judicial system”.

Supreme Court Correspondent for the Express Tribune Hasnaat Malik explains the judiciary’s power to issue contempt notices, saying that it is at the discretion of the Supreme Court on how and when to use contempt proceedings: “Sometimes courts show immense restraint while in other moments courts have been known to get upset over the smallest infraction. We have seen though that Supreme Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial has not used contempt even once during his tenure. Every chief justice has their own policy. For example, former CJ Saqib Nisar used the contempt of court power liberally as did former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry.”

Speaking to Geo News on Saturday, former attorney general Ashtar Ausaf Ali had said that “judges are not swayed by such criticism.” He was of the view that while “there has been a sustained campaign against judges for the past few days now, I am very sure that despite all such criticism the judges will remain steadfast to their oath”.

Hasnaat Malik says that this ‘trolling’ by the PTI’s social media handles is “a new phenomenon. We have seen criticism before but this trolling is new and is being used to influence court proceedings. I think if there were to be a notice of contempt it would have a ‘chilling effect’, which would also clamp down legitimate criticism.”

Another lawyer says -- off the record -- that according to him had the PTI legal team been asked they would not have advised the PTI social media team to not do this [the online campaign against the IHC CJ]. Saying that “things have not been conducted well; that’s for sure”, the lawyer says that while “in theory, [IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq] could go for contempt, he probably won’t”.

It may be noted that a couple of days back, a story reported by Geo News regarding Khawaja Haris, the PTI’s lead counsel, deciding to quit his legal team had quoted sources as saying that Haris had advised the PTI’s legal team against raising objections over IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq.

According to media reports, the PTI has requested the Supreme Court to transfer Imran Khan’s cases in the Islamabad High Court to other high courts, the PTI chief also accusing IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq of a “deep and settled bias”.

Hasnaat Malik adds that “the PTI’s online campaigns against the judiciary are part of a strategy when Imran Khan is facing cases: “This is usually part of a proper strategy by the party as a pressure tactic on the courts.”