The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Thursday regretted the impression that the Supreme Court was “interfering” in matters pending before the subordinate judiciary after Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said the conviction of PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case contained “defects.”
Earlier this month, Khan was found guilty of “corrupt practices” by a trial court and sentenced to three years in prison. His legal team subsequently approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to appeal his conviction. Prior to the ruling, the PTI chief had also approached the Supreme Court against the IHC’s decision to remand the case back to the trial court judge who had convicted him, which a three-member bench led by the CJP took up on Wednesday.
During proceedings, the CJP remarked that the trial court’s decision contained “defects” and was delivered in haste. However, he said, the apex court would not intervene until the outcome of the appeal pending before the IHC.
Addressing a press conference outside the apex court, PBC Executive Committee Chairman Hassan Raza Pasha said the SC’s remarks were unwarranted as the appeal against Khan’s conviction was not pending before it. “But in yesterday’s remarks by the SC, which we saw and heard, it seemed as if the whole appeal was decided, and we saw criminal jurisprudence changing,” he said.
“It seems as if there is no trust left in the honorable high court judges. They are also equally honorable and respectable judges, and are passing verdicts according to their conscience … it amounts to interference in the smooth functioning of the high court, appellate court,” he said, questioning how the high court was expected to give an impartial decision when it had been provided “directions” by the apex court. He also noted that lawyers of a certain political party, a reference to the PTI, were already saying that the SC’s remarks were akin to an acquittal of Khan.
Stressing that the PBC respected the Supreme Court and did not want the court’s esteem to suffer, Pasha stressed that there should be “no interference” in matters pending in the high court, as this was unfair to one or the other party. “We have seen in other cases an order is issued [by the Supreme Court], that we expect from the high court to decide the case in such and such manner … Yesterday, we felt that directions were given which should not happen. We, once again, say that no one should be prejudiced,” he said.
The senior lawyer further said some people had derogatively referred to courts as “Sharif courts,” and the PBC did not want the public and lawyers to call the courts by another name now. He stressed the judiciary should be apolitical and should function within the parameters of the law.
PBC Vice Chairman Haroonur Rashid, meanwhile, said the PTI chief’s appeal against his conviction was pending before the IHC and the SC’s observations had sought to directly influence lower courts and high courts. He questioned how the subordinate judiciary’s rulings could be deemed fit if they did not rule in accordance with the apex court’s observation. “To give such an observation is not right, legally or ethically. Because neither an appeal nor a bail [plea] was pending before the honorable SC. The appeal and the plea will be decided by the high court,” he said, adding the PBC had earlier also said that it appeared certain benches were favoring a party.