ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to Prime Minister Imran Khan for utilising a public building for a private function and referred the matter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan for constitution of an appropriate bench to hear the case.
A two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, took notice of the use of Convention Centre by Insaf Lawyers Forum (ILF), the legal wing of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for holding a seminar last week to get support for their candidate in the upcoming elections of the association.
The event was attended and addressed by the prime minister as well as Advocate General Punjab Ahmed Awais, who is also a leader of the ruling PTI, who had attended the function.
On Monday, the court while hearing a civil petition, filed by Muhammad Tariq Versus Afzal Hussain, issued notices to Prime Minister Imran Khan and referred the matter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan for constitution of an appropriate bench to hear the case.
“Notice to be also issued to Prime Minister Imran Khan, since the utilisation by him of public building, that is, the Convention Centre, Islamabad, was for a private function which apparently had no concern with ‘the exercise of powers and performance of functions’ of his office (in terms of Article 248 of the Constitution),” says the court order.
The court also issued notice to the Attorney General for Pakistan in terms of Order XXVII-A of the Code ofCivil Procedure since the interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution and the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973 is involved.
The court directed that the law officers and all concerned should also come prepared to dilate on whether a public building and the public offices of the prime minister and the Advocate General Punjab can be used for personal and or the political purposes of the political party to which they belong.
During the hearing, the additional advocate general said every political party has a lawyers wing and Article 17 of the Constitution allows holding of rallies. Justice Faez Isa said it is apparently a matter of constitutional interpretation and basic rights. He said the question arises whether the prime minister attended the event at Convention Centre in personal capacity or whether he misused state resources. He said the prime minister attended the function of a group of lawyers and supported them. He asked whether the fare of the Convention Centre was paid or the PM used Convention Centre in private capacity?
Justice Faez Isa said the advocate general was also sitting in the private function in Convention Centre. He observed that Convention Centre is not a private property.
The court directed that the authority which operates the Convention Centre, Islamabad be sent notice to submit its report stating as to who sought permission for the use of the Convention Centre in respect of the said function?, who granted permission for the use of the Convention Centre and whether a bill was raised and payment made, and if so, by whom, for the use of the Convention Centre?
The court further directed that answers to the aforesaid be submitted with supporting documents, besides issuing notice to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to submit the copy of the complete recording of the said function held in the Convention Centre.
Similarly, the court also directed to tell about the state television channels which had broadcast the said function live, which had broadcast it later and how many times.
The court also issued notices to be also sent to the Pakistan Bar Council, the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Punjab Bar Council to assist in the matter as it also appears to involve the integrity of bar elections and of the office of the AG/Chairman, Punjab Bar Council.
“Since this court has taken notice in terms of paragraph 2 onwards a separate file be prepared and numbered in respect of this matter by the office and to place it before the chief justice for constitution of an appropriate bench to hear the case,” the court also noted into its order.
The court stated that an application for adjournment has been submitted by Mehmood A Sheikh, AOR, on behalf of, Ahmed Awais, ASC representing the petitioner’ stating that Ahmed Awais has been ‘elevated as Advocate General Punjab’, therefore, the petitioner may be granted time to engage another counsel.
“We sent for the highest law officer of the province of Punjab present at Islamabad and Muhammad Qasim Chohan, Additional Advocate General, Punjab (AAG), is in attendance,” the court noted in its order.
The court enquired from the AAG when Ahmed Awais was appointed as Advocate General, Punjab, and he stated that this happened on 29 July, 2020. Therefore, there was more than sufficient time to engage another counsel.
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