IHC reserves verdict on maintainability of petition accusing PM of contempt

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Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday reserved its verdict on the maintainability of a petition accusing Prime Minister Imran Khan of contempt of court for his recent remarks on the judiciary.

The petition, which was filed by Advocate Saleemullah Khan yesterday, said that the premier had “committed serious contempt”.

It refers to remarks made by the prime minister during a speech he delivered at the inaugural ceremony of Havelian-Mansehra section of the Hazara motorway at Havelian, where he urged Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa and senior judge of the Supreme Court Justice Gulzar Ahmed to restore public confidence in the judiciary. The premier said there was a perceived disparity in how the powerful and common people were treated in the country’s judicial system.

Imran’s statements had come days after the Lahore High Court (LHC) issued a verdict allowing former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to travel abroad for four weeks for medical treatment. The LHC, in its order, had also exempted Nawaz from paying the indemnity bond worth Rs7 billion, which the government had demanded from the PML-N supremo as a condition to let him go.

The prime minister comments had also garnered a reaction from Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who said: “Do not hurl taunts at us for favouring the powerful, because everybody is equal before us.”

During the proceedings today, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who was hearing the petition, asked the appellant: “What problem do you have with the prime minister’s speech?”

The petitioner responded that the prime minister had “ridiculed the judiciary”.

“The courts welcome criticism,” said Justice Minallah. Saleemullah said that there was a “difference between criticism and contempt”.

“Do you want a trial of an elected prime minister?” Justice Minallah asked. “Do you know the outcome of such a move? Do you want the prime minister to be disqualified?”

The hearing was adjourned until later in the day.

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