LHC suspends FIA’s summon to Imran Khan in ‘cypher audio leaks’

Justice Asjad Javaid Ghural has sought replies from federal government and other respondents by December 19


Rana Yasif December 06, 2022
PTI Chairman Imran Khan is addressing party's long march via video link on November 15. SCREENGRAB

LAHORE:

Lahore High Court (LHC) Justice Asjad Javaid Ghural on Tuesday suspended Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) summon to PTI chief Imran Khan in ‘cypher audio leak' scandal and sought replies from federal government and other respondents by December 19.

Imran had challenged the FIA’s inquiry into the audio leaks related to the US cypher and its notice issued to him for recording his statement by December 6 (today) in the LHC.

The court was requested to direct the quarters concerned to halt inquiry and declare its notices “illegal and unlawful”.

In first phase of the proceeding, the arguments revolved around whether or not the LHC has the jurisdiction to hear this matter. It is worth mentioning that LHC’s Registrar Office had raised objection about jurisdiction.

Responding to which, the PTI chief’s counsel barrister Salman Safdar argued that LHC has the jurisdiction to hear this matter and cited three cases including the one related to model Ayyan Ali.

Justice Ghural questioned whether the inquiry has been conducted to probe as to how the audios were leaked.

“Whether or not those persons had been investigated who were deputed there and had complete control,” Justice Ghural further asked.

The petitioner’s counsel replied that they did not know how the audios leaked. Justice Ghural remarked but the inquiry should be conducted into it to ascertain who is responsible for audio leaks.

The counsel told the court that the FIA started “irrelevant inquiry” relying upon the material available on internet.

Justice Ghural observed that the forensic of the audio should have been conducted first to establish its credibility.

Also read: FIA summons Imran for separate probes

The counsel expressing his concern implored the court that they have doubts that a first information report (FIR) could be registered against his client, hence the FIA notice should be suspended.

The court inquired whether the FIA could issue notice in the audio leaks probe. To which, the counsel replied in the negative while the lawyer representing the federal government argued that the FIA has the authority can issue the notice.

Imran’s counsel replied that they did not know how the audio leaked and added that the FIA initiated its inquiry relying upon the material available on internet without conducting forensic of the leaked audios to establish their authenticity.

He claimed that the federal government was using FIA for vested interests and implored the court that inquiry is based on “mala fide intention with ulterior motives”. “My client is being subject of political victimisation merely to tarnish his image,” he added.

To which Justice Ghural asked whether an inquiry could be initiated without forensic of the audio and whether the circle of the investigation will be expanded or confined only to a few people. The counsel expressing his concern implored the court that they have doubts that the FIR could be registered so the FIA’s notice should be suspended.

Petition

The petitioner, in his petition implored the court that, he was ousted from the government through a well-orchestrated scheme in April this year and the ensuing arbitrary actions and highhandedness of the political opponents who took over the federal government quite clearly manifest political victimisation against him and his party.

Similarly, the incumbent government released and circulated his audios when he was holding the office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The first audio, purporting to be a recording of the petitioner’s conversation, was leaked on September 28, 2022. These conversations were made over, what was supposed to be, a secured phone line in the Prime Minister’s office, but have, nonetheless, been intercepted and recorded. It is also clear from these released audio clips that they have been doctored, manipulated, fudged and tampered with, so as to change their content and context and portray the petitioner in a negative light.

The petitioner, therefore, is aggrieved of and dissatisfied with the exercise of power by respondent (FIA) whereby the FIA has illegally, unlawfully, without jurisdiction, with mala fide intention and with ulterior motive, initiated an inquiry, the gist of which relates to the inquiry regarding the alleged conversations of the petitioner, his political associates and the then secretary to the Prime Minister, regarding the “Cypher Message” received from Washington.

Also read: Imran moves LHC against cipher audio leaks inquiry

In pursuance of the said inquiry, the respondent Mian Sabir Hussain, assistant director (Inquiry Team), Federal Investigation Agency has illegally and without lawful authority issued him a notice on November 30, 2022 under section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 for appearing before the Inquiry Team at the FIA Headquarters on December 6, 2022 at 2 pm.

Petitioner, despite being summoned as a witness through the impugned enquiry notice, is absolutely unclear as to what offence, if any, he is being inquired for. The impugned inquiry notice and earlier notice on the matter are miserably silent with regards to the same.

As per the law of the land, before summoning a witness, the person must be informed of the fact, point, allegation, offence, name of accused, specified matter, if any, concerning the matters in the notice so that the person can furnish such information. However, none of the requirements stated above have been complied with by the FIA in the issuance of the impugned enquiry notice.

The inquiry that has been initiated is beyond the jurisdiction of the FIA as no wrong doing, let alone “illegality”, is apparent on the face of record, especially against the petitioner. It has been initiated with mala fide intention, in bad faith and out of personal motives to hurt the petitioner and support or benefit the political opponents of the petitioner.

He requested the court to declare that the impugned inquiry is without jurisdiction therefore the same be set aside at the earliest and further set aside the impugned enquiry notice. As a consequence thereof quash the impugned enquiry and earlier notice in the interest of justice since no wrong doing whatsoever has been pointed out against the petitioner.

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