The Islamabad High Court on Thursday is hearing the contempt of court case against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan following his remarks against Additional Sessions Judge Zeba Chaudhry.
The case is being heard by a larger bench of the IHC led by the high court Chief Justice Athar Minallah. Justice Mian Gul Hasan Aurangzeb, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani Justice Tariq Mahmood Jahangiri and Justice Babar Sattarpart will be a part of the bench.
The former premier was present in his seat and his lawyer Hamid Khan came to the rostrum.
"As per the court's observation we have submitted the reply", the lawyer said, referring to Imran's statement regarding the case.
After the IHC's show cause notice, the former premier submitted a second written reply yesterday, expressing his deep regret for the "unintentional" words he spoke about the judge.
"There will be no shame in expressing regret to the judge for my words," the PTI leader had said.
Hamid Khan maintained that his client wanted the matter to be closed, which was mentioned in the written reply to the court.
He further said that during the hearing on August 31, the court handed over the cases of Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry. He added that he would explicate how Imran's case was different from those Supreme Court decisions.
"I will also place the decision of the Supreme Court in the Imran Khan case before the court", he said.
IHC CJ Minallah said that the aim was to highlight three judgments of the Supreme Court, that in the Firdous Ashiq Awan case, three types of contempt of court are mentioned and that the Talal Chaudhry case was not criminal contempt of court.
He reiterated that criminal contempt of court was serious and intent could not be mentioned in it. He further stated that the counsel was told during the last hearing that this reference was of criminal contempt of court.
He maintained that there were no criminal contempt proceedings against Daniyal Aziz or Talal Chaudhry and that the high court was bound by the apex court's decisions.
Imran's counsel restated that they wanted to close this matter and had submitted the reports with the utmost respect.
"The court gave another opportunity to which a detailed reply was filed", Hamid Khan said.
Justice Minallah stated that criminal contempt was a serious matter which had no justification.
"We are defenders of freedom of expression but incitement cannot be allowed. In criminal contempt, you cannot plead your intentions", he said.
On the direction of the court, Hamid Khan read a part of a Supreme Court case.
The chief justice maintained that the PTI leader had tried to give justifications in his response and questioned if any former premier could justify that the IHC CJ did not know the law.
"We have to follow the law, no one can influence us", he said, adding that a great crime was committed but that there was no realisation of it.
The PTI lawyer maintained that he was not justifying the answer, but rather putting his own position forward.
Justice Minallah remarked that there was so much division within society that opponents could be insulted in public places.
"If this happens to a judge, then what will happen?" he questioned.
He further asked the lawyer if the decision to torture someone would emerge from PTI rallies or the court.
Nothing good has happened in 70 years, the CJ said, asking the lawyer if he wanted to justify the former premier's statement. To this Hamid Khan responded that he had intended to explain not justify the statement.
"Would the answer be the same for a High Court or Supreme Court judge?" he questioned, adding that he was sorry to see a reply where they were giving justifications.
He asked if Imran's reply would have been the same if such comments were made about a judge of the apex court.
Justice Babar Sattar wondered how a political leader could stand up in a public meeting and announce legal action against a judge.
Hamid Khan in his arguments said that he has submitted a supplementary reply keeping in view of observations of the IHC. We are seeking closure of the matter, he added again.
IHC CJ said that Imran Khan's statement regarding the judge was 'incitement', while Justice Babar Sattar said that Imran's subsequent conduct did not show that there would be no harm to the judge.
Strict security arrangements were made prior to the hearing with a heavy police presence in the region and the road to the IHC blocked with barbed wire.
Admission of court reporters, including lawyers, to the courtroom, is subject to a pass from the Registrar's Office.
Talking to media personnel outside the court, Imran was asked to comment on the security situation prior to the hearing.
“It is as if Kulbhushan Yadav was coming”, he remarked adding that he was unaware of what everyone was afraid of.
When asked if he would apologise for his comments regarding the additional sessions judge, Imran joked that he wouldn’t do anything without the journalist’s permission.
PTI lawyers stopped journalists from asking any further questions.
Imran Khan expressed disappointment that he could not watch the Pakistan vs. Afghanistan cricket match last night.
He maintained that he would talk to journalists after the hearing.
PTI members, court personnel arrive
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Mahmood Khan arrived at the IHC before the hearing and was prevented from entering the court. He was joined by PTI leaders Ali Awan, Raja Khurram Nawaz, Murad Saeed, Fawad Chaudhary, among others.
The PTI members started chanting loud slogans ahead of the hearing.
The judicial assistant and senior lawyer Munir Malik also reached the Islamabad High Court. Shortly after, Advocate General Islamabad Jahangir Jadoon and Attorney General Ishtar Asif reached the courtroom as well.
A projector was also installed in the courtroom