Sunday September 25, 2022

Only unconditional apology may save Imran, say lawyers

September 01, 2022
Only unconditional apology may save Imran, say lawyers

KARACHI: On what happens next in the Imran Khan contempt case being heard by the Islamabad High Court — and deferred on Wednesday till September 8 — legal experts say much of that depends on how Imran behaves, and how the courts perceive his apology (if he so chooses to offer one).

Talking to The News about the nuances of the contempt law and whether an apology offered late is rejected right off by the courts, Advocate of the Supreme Court Salman Akram Raja says: “There are no rules cast in stone about the circumstances in which an alleged contemner might be pardoned. Every case has its own context. There is no rule that a contemner who hasn’t sought pardon on the first date is not to be pardoned on account of a later apology. It is the sincerity of the apology and the grievousness of the contempt that matters.”

There are those though who feel Imran offering a defence in court may have managed to create more trouble for himself. Justice (r) Rasheed A Rizvi, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association -- speaking to Geo Wednesday night -- says that: “The court’s attitude was very concessional.... Because [Imran’s] response was so strange I don’t think Hamid Khan drafted or even saw it....And then Imran also pled his defence. When you plead a defence, there is no opportunity to tender an unconditional apology. Today all he [Imran] had to do was give a one-page unconditional apology. But when he submitted his defence, he could not have used such an opportunity. I feel the court has given him an opportunity though...”

According to Salman Raja, “While it is true to some extent that in the past apologies have not been accepted, it’s not like our history doesn’t have examples of apologies being accepted.... There is a custom that one should offer an apology in the first instance but it’s not like apologies haven’t been tendered after the first hearing”.

For Raja, “...just a written apology is not enough; Imran’s attitude should reflect that he is indeed sorry for what he did. It may be good if he apologized to the judge he had spoken about. And then went to court and expressed remorse for his remarks. If this happens, then the court can accept his apology. There is no principle that if the person hasn’t apologised the first day, s/he can’t apologize the next day”.

On the question of just how safe or unsafe Imran really would be if he were to tender an apology, Justice Rizvi feels that: “If Imran hands in a one-page written apology, then the show-cause notice can be taken back. Otherwise, charges will have to be framed in the case [against Imran]”. According to Salman Raja, had Imran apologized on Wednesday, he had better chances at [the case becoming easier for him]: “Now he faces a little more difficulty; he will also have to take back his original reply. He will have to say that his initial reply was a mistake. And then he needs to apologize. And even then it’s not necessary that the court will accept the apology -- but the possibility would be there”.

While cautious, the popular opinion regarding the case does seem to be that an unconditional apology can equal a high probability of the matter being discharged. In a tweet on the issue, lawyer Abuzar Salman Niazi feels the matter will be disposed of -- post an unconditional apology: “Earlier Imran Khan submitted conditional apology which [the] court did not appreciate. Giving one more opportunity means [the] court wants unconditional apology. Most probably, matter will [get] disposed of on next date (if unconditional apology submitted) with warning not to repeat it.”

Former president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed too feels that: “If Imran gives a genuinely contrite apology then I feel the court will probably dispose of the matter....While it’s still the courts discretion to accept or not accept a contemner’s apology what is usually seen is that the courts express magnanimity in the face of an unconditional apology”.

Speaking to Geo on whether an apology by Imran could affect his political narrative, lawyer and Geo talk-show host Muneeb Farooq feels that it all depends on who has Imran’s ears: “If he listens to educated professional lawyers -- and I’m sure the PTI has them -- then Imran Khan should unconditionally apologize and offer himself to the mercy of the courts. The dominant view is that the courts are usually magnanimous in such situations. If Imran listens to decent people, then he would apologize but if every remark he gives is so combative then the court has told its process today. So it all depends on the attitude of the contemner”.

In comments to Geo regarding the IHC saying that the proceedings on Wednesday could have been disposed were Imran’s response different, former of the SHCBA Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed says that it “seems the court is saying that if you [Imran] apologize we can discharge the matter but if you continue to stand this ground and give a combative reply then the matter can get serious.”

Meanwhile, almost immediately after the IHC had given the Imran Khan seven days to submit another reply, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry tweeted out that: “ In my view apology or no apology doesn’t make any difference”, and that if the court really wanted to improve the system it should launch an inquiry into the custodial torture of Shahbaz Gill, Jamil Farouqi and Haleem Adil Sheikh.