ISLAMABAD: Former Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Thursday sent a defamation notice worth Rs20 billion to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, who has repeatedly accused the former top judge of involvement in poll rigging during the 2013 election.
The PTI supremo was served the notice under section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance, 2002.
In the notice, justice Chaudhry offered that he may withdraw his claim if Imran willingly tenders an unconditional apology or agrees to pay damages worth Rs20 billion within a period of 14 days.
“Otherwise I would have no option except to bring a civil action (suit) against you before the competent forum in accordance with law. I also reserve my right to initiate other civil and criminal proceedings against you, in accordance with the law, both inside and outside the jurisdiction of Pakistan, if unconditional apology is not tendered by you”, the notice said.
The notice reads, “I claim from you (Imran) in damages a token sum of Rs15 billions only; and another Rs5 billion only as damages for mental agonies, torture, harassment, humiliation, etc, caused to me as well as my family”
The former CJ also highlighted that he has no desire to use the damages that shall be recovered from Imran for his personal gain. “This sum, once recovered, shall be dedicated to an honourable cause.”
He further stated that no amount recovered in damages can adequately compensate him for the loss that Imran’s mischievous and false statements have caused, to the judiciary, or to the people of Pakistan who are the ultimate custodians of both the judiciary and the electoral process.
The ex-chief justice also contended that the PTI chief levelled allegations of rigging against him for not receiving relief from the court in his petition regarding a recount in four electoral constituencies.
The PTI chief had demanded that those who are involved in election rigging should be exposed and put on trial under Article 6 of the Constitution.
Justice Chaudhry also said that the PTI leader levelled rigging allegations against him without offering any proof or evidence.
“Can you show a single document or a single statement wherein I asked the ROs to help any candidate or political party? Definitely not. Then what is your object in raising objections with regard to addressing the Returning Officers (ROs)?”
Commenting on the legal notice, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Kamran Murtaza said that the judiciary should not be dragged into politics. He also made it clear that the bar will remain neutral during the legal wrangling between the former top judge and the PTI chief.
Similarly, another lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain said that this is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former chief justice seeks relief from subordinate courts, which is not illegal but unconventional.
He also stated that Justice Chaudhry might file the suit in Islamabad High Court, wherein most of the judges were appointed during his term as chairman of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan, the highest judicial body in the country.
The counsel questioned Chaudhry’s reluctance to serve a legal notice to former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senator Faisal Raza Abidi, who has also levelled similar allegations against him.
In response to the legal notice, PTI’s Central Information Secretary Dr Shireen Mazari said that the former chief justice was Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz’s (PML-N) henchman and this was an attempt to target Imran Khan.
In a statement, Mazari vowed to “expose the nexus between former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and the PML-N over the alleged poll rigging last year.
“PTI intends to restore and strengthen democracy by exposing this planned mass rigging on August 14 through its Azadi March”, she said.
Mazari said that PTI had yet to receive the legal notice apparently sent to the party chief, but she made it clear that there was no way PTI and its chairman would back down.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2014.