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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), Thursday, declared all the proceedings in the cipher case after December 14 “of no legal consequence”.

The bench declared all proceedings illegal after the Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan assured the court to restart the case and record the statements of 13 witnesses again in the case.

A single bench of Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb conducted hearing of Imran Khan’s petition challenging his de-novo trial in jail and subsequent developments, including the framing of charges and a gag order on the media.

At the very outset of the hearing, the Attorney General submitted that the impugned order dated 14.12.2023 is not sustainable in law as the same is not in accord with the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Ghulam Muhammad Vs. The State (PLD 1967 SC 175).

He further submitted that he would have no objection if the said order is set-aside and that the prosecution has no intention of filing an application for proceedings before the Special Court to be in camera.

At this stage, Raja Rizwan Abbasi advocate who is one of the prosecutors, submitted that the testimonies of the witnesses after 21.12.2023 were recorded in open Court and therefore, such testimonies should be saved.

The IHC bench observed that since the impugned order dated 14.12.2023 had not been recalled by judge, Special Court at any material stage and since his order dated 23.12.2023 cannot be treated as an order to recall the said order dated 14.12.2023 or as an order for further proceedings not to be held in camera, the request made by Abbasi cannot be acceded to.

Justice Miangul Hassan wrote in his written order, “In view of the said submission of the Attorney-General, the instant criminal revision petition is allowed; the impugned order dated 14.12.2023 passed by the Judge, Special Court is set-aside; and all the proceedings conducted by the Judge, Special Court after the said order dated 14.12.2023 are declared to be of no legal consequence.”

Imran Ahmad Khan had challenged order dated 14.12.2023 passed by the Judge, Special Court designated to try offences under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, whereby the application filed by the prosecution under Section 14 of the OSA, was allowed by excluding the public from the proceedings in the trial against the petitioner.

Furthermore, through the said order, the reporting or publication with respect to the proceedings by the print, electronic and social media was prohibited. A direction was issued to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to ensure that no reporting

with respect to the proceedings before the said Court takes place.

Through the said order, the family members of the persons accused in case FIR No.06/2023 dated 15.08.2023 registered under Sections 5 and 9 of the OSA read with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 (“PPC”) at Police Station Counter Terrorism Wing, FIA, Islamabad were allowed to attend the proceedings but were prohibited from publishing any evidence given or statements made during the course of the proceedings.

The IHC bench stated that the reason given by the learned Judge, Special Court for allowing the said application under Section 14 of the OSA was “to protect the sanctity of the cypher, a secret communication system in place between foreign missions of Pakistan and the foreign office and sanctity of the State which is inevitably intertwined.”

It was also held that “the publication of any evidence given and or any statement made in the court will be prejudicial to the safety of the State.”

The IHC order mentioned that during the hearing on 28.12.2023, it also transpired that the learned Special Court had issued certified copies of the testimonies of all the witnesses including PWs-1 to 3 and 7 (who, according to the learned Attorney-General were witnesses whose testimonies, if published, would cause prejudice to the safety of the State). The attested copies of the testimonies had also been produced before this Court, which were taken on record.

It added that this court, in its order dated 28.12.2023, had observed that it is the “publication of any evidence” that may be prejudicial to the safety of the State that forms the basis for passing an order under Section 14 of the OSA. By issuing certified copies of testimonies of PWs-1 to 3 and 7, the learned Special Court had given the status of public documents to these testimonies.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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