PTI Chairman and deposed premier Imran Khan on Tuesday responded to a show-cause notice issued to him by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a contempt case and offered to “take back” the controversial remarks he had made against district and sessions judge Zeba Chaudhry during a PTI rally at F-9 Park in Islamabad earlier this month.
The PTI chief, in a provisional reply, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, stated that due to “serious misunderstanding and misconception” he had misunderstood that Judge Zeba was not a judicial officer but an executive magistrate performing executive functions on the federal government's directions.
The reply, submitted through Imran’s counsel Hamid Khan, regretted that a wrong impression was taken from the PTI chief’s speech that he had threatened the female judge for approving PTI leader Shahbaz Gill’s physical remand.
"Even otherwise, word ‘action’ used in the speech did not denote any ‘illegal/unlawful action’ against any person rather it was used for ‘legal’ and ‘lawful action’ which is right of every citizen of Pakistan,” the reply stated.
It was said that the PTI chairman’s statement was “twisted and dishonestly manipulated” by the respondents to initiate proceedings under Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
The petition contended that neither Imran’s speech nor the contents of the FIR registered against him disclosed any “schedule offence” which fell within the purview of Section 6 and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997.
“If my words are inappropriate, I am ready to take them back,” Imran said.
The petition said that the PTI chairman did not believe in “hurting the sentiments of the judges” and argued that the deputy registrar had “picked up some words” from Imran’s F-9 Park speech.
The reply said that the speech was shown on media in a manner as if the PTI chairman wanted to take law “in his hands”. It urged the court to examine the context of the speech.
“On the contrary, it was the legal right of every citizen to complain about the conduct/misconduct of a judge or any other public functionary in accordance with the law,” it maintained
The former premier went on to say that the IHC had always shown restraint in such matters and allowed free speech.
“It is submitted that the respondent had no motive (ill-will) behind the said speech or remarks, nor were those directed specifically towards the judicial officer.”
The petition contended that after seeing visuals of the physical torture and hearing about the sexual abuse of Gill during custody, the PTI chairman had been disturbed. “It was neither intended to obstruct the course of justice as the order for remand had already been issued”.
The reply maintained that Imran throughout his life had obeyed the law and constitution and believed in the freedom of judiciary and urged the court to retract the show-cause notice against the PTI chief.The reply noted that the acting IHC chief justice in his observation had said that all the judges agreed on contempt proceedings against Imran.
“The honorable acting chief justice observed that the matter was discussed in the tea room and all my colleagues unanimously agreed with proceeding forward,” the reply said.
"All those judges who agreed to the initiation of the instant proceeding having pre-judged the matter, might have to consider recusal from the matter," it added.
The reply further said that it was a “serious procedural lapse in the instant matter which will have a great bearing on the matter”.
The counsel claimed that Imran’s words “all of you should be ashamed of yourselves” was taken in a different context and regrettably viewed as contemptuous by the registrar.
He requested the court to treat the reply as provisional as the respondent was unable to have access to all judicial record of the lower courts.
Imran also raised a question regarding the jurisdiction of the contempt of court proceedings, saying the registrar could not proceed without a reference from the lower court judge.
The petition said that the “gender debate” regarding Imran’s speech was initiated by some journalists and politicians.
Last week, the IHC had issued a show-cause notice to the PTI chairman and asked him to appear personally before the bench on August 31.
Imran’s controversial remarks against the judge were also made part of the written order.
“Magistrate Zeba sahiba, you should get ready. We will also take action against you. All of you should be ashamed of yourselves,” the IHC written order quoted Imran as saying.
Earlier this month, Imran while addressing a rally at Islamabad’s F-9 park alleged that Judge Zeba Chaudhry knew that incarcerated party leader Shahbaz Gill was tortured, but she did not release him on bail. He had threatened to take action against the judge and the Islamabad IGP and DIG.
The former premier was booked in a terrorism case on the complaint of Islamabad Saddar Magistrate Ali Javed for threatening the additional sessions judge.
The first information report (FIR) was lodged with the Margalla police station. The FIR also carried Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.