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Tuesday June 18, 2024

Cipher case: Prosecution told to complete arguments on appeals against sentencing

Court directed prosecution to cite judicial precedents on point that if trial is not transparent, case should be remanded for retrial

By Awais Yousafzai
May 24, 2024
The screenshot shows former prime minister Imran Khan brandishing a letter during a rally in Parade Ground, Islamabad, on March 27, 2023.  — YouTube/GeoNews
The screenshot shows former prime minister Imran Khan brandishing a letter during a rally in Parade Ground, Islamabad, on March 27, 2023. — YouTube/GeoNews

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed the prosecution to complete its arguments at the next hearing of the appeals against the sentencing of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan and former vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

The court directed the prosecution to cite judicial precedents on the point that if the trial is not transparent, the case should be remanded for retrial.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq remarked that the case is getting delayed, so the court would discharge all the other cases and hear only this case on the next date.

Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb remarked that this case was supposed to be completed in two hours several days ago. The court observed that its time is reserved for people, and judges have to write decisions on the court’s proceedings.

Chief Justice Farooq and Justice Aurangzeb heard the appeals against the conviction of Khan and Qureshi in the cipher case. The Islamabad advocate general told the court that lawyers were appointed by the government in place of the appellants’ lawyers.

He said the defence counsel had conducted death sentence trials in his private practice but not as state counsel. The affidavits of both state counsel were submitted to the court.

The Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) prosecutor Zulfiqar Abbas Naqvi argued that there were two points before the court at this time: one point is related to the lack of transparency of the trial, and the other pertains to the merits of the case.

He said if the court finds the trial was not transparent, the appeals’ result would be different. The chief justice said the matter of the trial’s transparency was raised by the appellants’ counsel, while the prosecution had not said at any stage that the trial was not fair.

The court asked the AG if the trial court can conduct the proceedings after the court’s timings, and if so, what would be its effect. The court also inquired that if several trial proceedings were being conducted at the same time, what procedures had been adopted in the jail trial of the appellants.

The prosecutor said the appellants’ counsel used delaying tactics repeatedly, adding that statements of the witnesses were recorded but the cross-examination could not be done. He said the appellants’ counsel did not appear on time for court proceedings, and filed frivolous applications in the trial proceedings.

The chief justice asked the prosecutor if he was saying that the appellants’ counsel was causing delays, so there was no other option but to appoint a counsel for them at state expense. The prosecutor replied in the affirmative, saying that that was the situation.

Khan’s counsel Barrister Salman Safdar said the statement of any new witness cannot be recorded after the court hours are over, and if only the statement of a witness is being recorded, it can be completed even after the end of court time.

At one point the chief justice asked the counsel if he was trying to say that the trial was not conducted correctly and the case should be remanded back.

The prosecutor replied in the affirmative. The court observed how the case can be remanded back to the trial court without examining the merit of the case.

Justice Aurangzeb wondered why haste was observed in the matter, as the case was of capital punishment, but it was completed within three weeks. The prosecutor said that it was the direction of the high court, so the case was completed expeditiously.

Justice Aurangzeb observed that such decision was set aside by the Supreme Court. The FIA prosecutor clarified that the SC had given direction in its judgment to complete the trial early, observing that if the accused tried to delay the trial proceedings, application for the cancellation of bail could be filed.

Referring to the decision of the Indian SC on speedy trial, he said that early justice is better than delayed justice. Barrister Safdar said the court had asked the prosecutor to complete the arguments within half an hour, but he was prolonging the same.

He said the appellate side had already given arguments on the merits, but the prosecution was taking it for trial and adjournment. Prosecutor Naqvi said if the court comes to the conclusion that this was not a fair trial, the case would be remanded back for retrial.

Chief Justice Farooq asked the prosecutor if he was saying that if the trial was not transparent, the high court cannot go with the merits. The court also asked the prosecution what the situation would be if there was no prosecution case. The court adjourned the hearing until May 28.