The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday nullified the notification for conducting former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's jail trial in the cipher case — issued on August 29.
The ruling came as a division bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Riffat Imtiaz announced the verdict it reserved earlier in the day on the intra-court appeal filed by the PTI chief against his jail trial.
A short has been issued by the IHC, while the detailed verdict will be issued later.
As the proceedings resumed today, Imran’s lawyer Advocate Salman Akram Raja started presenting his arguments. Citing the high court rules, he said a judge’s permission was mandatory for a jail trial.
“The judge then informs relevant ministry via the high court or district magistrate or commissioner’s office,” he argued.
Here, Justice Aurangzeb inquired what the judge should do foremost for a jail trial. In his response, Raja said the judge had to list reasons for the same with a “clear mind”.
However, the lawyer continued, the reasons for Imran’s jail trial were not conveyed in the Aug 29 documents. It must be noted that on the said date, the IHC had suspended the PTI chief’s sentence in the Toshakhana case, but a special court established under the Official Secrets Act had directed jail authorities to keep Imran in “judicial lockup” in the cipher case.
“Even if we accept that the trial was initiated by a judge, the process that followed was incomplete,” Raja argued.
Raja highlighted that the federal cabinet is empowered to approve jail trials but in this scenario, no such decision was taken until Nov 12. “The federal cabinet’s approval only came when the intra-court appeal was under way,” he revealed.
Raja contended that a judicial order pertaining to the same had also not been issued yet. “The judicial order of a jail trial gives us the chance to present our stance,” the lawyer added and urged the court to declare the jail trial unlawful.
Meanwhile, Justice Aurangzeb asked if the government’s Nov 12 decision was taken to fulfil legal requirements. “How can the cabinet approve something that was never sought,” the PTI counsel responded.
He said the special court judge never mentioned the previous proceedings in the case. Whereas, in the notification issued by the government, nothing similar to what the judge said was written, Raja added.
“As per Article 352, the Nov 12 notification is not applicable to the previous hearings,” he contended.
At that, Justice Aurangzeb asked if the lawyer was saying that the government’s order on jail trial was issued merely to fulfil legal obligations.
No, Raja replied, adding that the cabinet’s approval came without a judicial order.
The judge then said that the IHC registrar had informed the court that the process of appointing the judge was initiated by the Islamabad High Court. “We were also told that the special court judge informed the IHC before commencing the jail trial,” Justice Aurangzeb revealed.
Raja, while concluding his arguments, then contended that all the notifications pertaining to the jail trial were illegal. “If you want to conduct a jail trial, you will have to adopt a legal procedure and provide solid reasons for it,” he added.
Subsequently, Attorney-General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan came to the rostrum. He said a jail trial wasn’t for ordinary people to attend but at the same time highlighted that Imran’s family members were allowed to attend the proceedings.
He recalled that Imran was in prison at the time of arrest and therefore a physical remand was not taken. “If the things that exist in the law are not taking place, then you say that justice is not being served,” the AGP said and highlighted that charges were framed against the accused in front of him as per the law.
The hearing is held at a big hall in Adiala Jail, Awan further said, adding that the jail trial against Imran was being conducted due to security reasons.
After the AGP concluded his arguments, the bench reserved the verdict with Justice Aurangzeb saying that the court would first issue a short order and then a detailed one at a later time.