Four SC judges share ‘soft corner' for PTI chief

Four judges of the Supreme Court are apparently reluctant to issue a contempt notice to PTI chairman and former premier Imran Khan over the violation of this year's May 25 order, wherein the party was restricted for its “Azadi March” near Peshawar Mor between the H-9 and G-9 sectors of Islamabad.

Despite conducting three hearings and examining all the relevant material including the agencies’ reports, a five-judge larger bench of the apex court, led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, showed restraint and just asked Imran and two PTI lawyers, Dr Babar Awan and Chaudhry Faisal Hussain, to submit their response.

The bench noted that their response was necessary to ascertain the fact whether or not the PTI chief had defied the SC’s May 25 order.

Imran and his supporters had reportedly made their way towards D-Chowk, prompting the government to summon army for the security of the capital’s Red Zone.

It was unusual that the judges deliberated among themselves in the courtroom at great length before passing an order.

It was visible that the members of the bench had different views on the matter.

Justice Naqvi even asked Additional Attorney General Chaudhary Amir Rehman how the government’s contempt petition was maintainable, when the matter had already been disposed of by the bench.

Justice Yahya Afridi maintained his earlier opinion, wherein he had held that a contempt petition should be initiated against Imran.

“With profound respect, instead of calling for reports from the named officials of the state agencies/departments, as directed by my learned brother, I am of the opinion that there is sufficient material before this court to proceed against Mr Imran Khan for the alleged disobedience of the court order dated 25.05.2022 passed in Constitution Petition No 19, which warrants the issuance of notice by this court to [him] to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him,” read a dissenting note issued by Justice Afridi earlier.

The SC judge had disagreed with the majority judges’ opinion that there was no credible material before the court for initiating independent contempt proceedings against the ex-PM, who allegedly disobeyed the SC’s May 25 order.

"The video-recording of Mr Imran Khan’s statement was played on multimedia screen in an open court during the court proceedings," the note had added.

Justice Afridi had observed that the statement of Imran, coupled with his conduct that followed thereafter in proceedings beyond the venue of the political gathering, was in his opinion, sufficient to prima facie show that the PTI chief disobeyed the SC order.

However, the majority of the judges had decided to receive the agencies’ reports for ascertaining the fact whether or not Imran defied the May 25 order.

Additional Attorney General Chaudhary Amir told the bench that after going through the agencies’ reports, it was clear that Imran had violated the May 25 order.

However, once again the four judges showed restraint and just sought a reply from Imran. The notices were also issued to both PTI lawyers — Babar Awan and Chaudhry Faisal Hussain.

The majority judges in their order on Wednesday noted that they had read the material and examined the provisions of the Ordinance and Order XXVII of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980.

"At the present stage, it is necessary that the factual aspects of the alleged breach of the undertakings be ascertained at a prima facie level. This is because although the events that followed the order dated 25.05.2022 (afternoon) and the evidentiary material collected subsequently by the agencies are damaging, the role and liability of the respondent as an absent party before the court is still not clear,” the order read.

The same bench is facing a battle of perception of remaining soft towards the PTI and strict against the PML-N and its leadership.

These judges had also initiated suo motu proceedings on the interference of the executive in the affairs of prosecution and investigation in high-profile cases.

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