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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday stayed the proceedings in jail against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in the cipher case pending before a Special Court.

A division bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz issued the directions while hearing an intra-court appeal (ICA) moved by the PTI chairman against a single-member bench’s decision that had approved Imran’s jail trial.

Besides issuing the aforementioned directions, the IHC bench also stressed the need that the court be informed about the “circumstances” that prompted the trial to be conducted in the jail. Moreover, the court summoned all records pertaining to proceedings conducted in the trial so far, as well as, reasons for conducting it in-prison.

During the hearing, Imran Khan’s lawyer Salman Akram Raja advocate and the Attorney General for Pakistan, Mansoor Awan, appeared before the court.

Awan informed the bench that the federal cabinet had approved Imran’s jail trial, adding that a copy of the relevant notification would be presented.

At this, Justice Miangul Hassan said that the court would scrutinise the notification. He questioned the “extraordinary circumstances” that led to the trial being conducted in its current manner. He observed, “We want to know the actual events; you have to inform us.”

The court also sought clarification on the reasons behind the federal cabinet’s approval of the jail trial. “The most important question lies in determining the status of court proceedings preceding the cabinet’s approval,” Justice Aurangzeb asked.

He referred to the case against former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who was tried in-prison but media persons and foreign journalists, including those affiliated with BBC, were permitted to attend proceedings. Similar to that scenario involving a former premier, this case also involves the ex-PM.

Justice Miangul Hassan observed that allowing a few family members of the accused to attend the proceedings was not tantamount to an open court trial. He added that the way the accused were indicted in the case cannot be considered as an open court proceeding, either.

The court inquired as to what circumstances required an in-prison trial. To this, AGP Awan replied that he would submit all relevant documents from concerned departments before the court.

Justice Aurangzeb further observed that anti-terrorism court judges are appointed through the executive. The chief justice was consulted but this process was initiated and completed by the executive.

After the arguments, the court sought a reply from the attorney general and adjourned the hearing till November 16.

Earlier, PTI chairman’s counsel Barrister Salman Akram Raja requested the bench to hold an open court trial of the cipher case. Imran is being held under judicial custody in connection with the cipher case in Adiala jail.

In this matter, Imran challenged the appointment of an anti-terrorism court judge as presiding officer of the special court for cipher case and his trial in jail under the Official Secrets Act.

PTI Chairman Imran and party leader Shah Mahmood Qureshi remain incarcerated in Adiala jail, where the trial was being conducted.

The cipher case pertains to a diplomatic cable which allegedly went missing from Imran’s possession. The PTI claims that the cipher contained veiled threats by the United States calling for his removal from office and the ouster of his government.

At the last hearing of the cipher case, the special court had granted permission to five family members each of Imran and Qureshi to attend proceedings held inside Adiala jail.

Both the accused have been indicted and the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has submitted a list of 28 prosecution witnesses before the trial court. The special court has recorded the statements of three prosecution witnesses associated with the Foreign Ministry, so far. The IHC had earlier upheld the decision to hold proceedings in-prison.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Parvez Nov 15, 2023 07:21pm
The IHC's. decisions are erratic and totally devoid of confidence giving for the people. The perception held is that this court or for that matter even our superior court to deliver visible justice is simply an illusion.
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