View from the courtroom: Imran to submit explanation to PHC for second time in six months

Source: Published in Current Affairs on Tuesday, November 10, 2015

THE Peshawar High Court has sought written explanation from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan for the second time within around six months for commenting on issues pending before the court.

Earlier, in June 2015 the court had sought explanation from him when he had commented on an order of the court related to the functioning of the dispute resolution councils (DRCs) in the province. This time the court issued a contempt of court notice to him on November 5 for commenting on cases related to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Medical Teaching Institutions Reforms Act (MTIRA), 2015.

The previous issue surfaced when a bench of the court headed by PHC Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel issued a stay order through which DRCs were stopped from functioning in the province till further order. The order was issued in a petition filed by Qaiser Ali, who was aggrieved with an order of one of the DRCs.

Reacting to the said order, Imran Khan issued a statement of which the court had taken notice. In the said controversial statement of Imran Khan issued by the PTI media cell on May 29 it was stated: “Chairman Imran Khan today expressed dismay over the stay order granted by Peshawar High Court against the Dispute Resolution Committees formed in KP at village levels in the local thanas.”

It was further stated: “Khan said the local people in villages were happy with this easy access to justice through the Dispute Resolution Committees in the local thanas. For the PHC to give a stay order halting the functioning of these committees was undemocratic as PTI was elected on its manifesto promises which it was implementing in KP.”

The high court had not pressed that issue after a written explanation was submitted on behalf of Imran Khan on June 18 by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Advocate General, Abdul Lateef Yousafzai, wherein he had stated that he had utmost respect for the courts and reporting on the issue of DRCs was result of some misunderstanding.

In a two-page reply Mr Khan stated that he was for the independence of judiciary, thus he could not criticise the working of courts.

“I have the highest respect for the courts and I cannot even think of criticising it. While praising the work of DRCs, all I said was that efforts will be made to vacate the interim order,” he had added.

In the present case a bench headed by Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth issued notice to Mr Khan for allegedly using threatening statement against the doctors, who had moved the high court against the MTIRA.

“We are issuing contempt of court notice to PTI chairman Imran Khan. The PTI chief is directed to submit a reply and explain his position for passing statements about the cases, which are pending before the court,” the bench ordered.

The bench issued the order while hearing several writ petitions related to the same issue. The bench fixed November 12 for next hearing with the direction to the high court’s office to shift the case to a bench headed by the PHC chief justice.

Advocate Mian Muhibullah Kakakhel, appearing for several of the petitioners including Khyber Medical College Teachers Association, had pointed out to the bench that Mr Khan had hurled threats at the staffers and petitioners, who were against the MTIRA and had threatened to stage ‘dharna’ against and ‘gherao’ of those ‘few unhappy doctors and management’ of the main teaching hospitals who were in the way of its implementation of health reforms agenda.

He had submitted copies of different newspapers stating that while the matter was sub judice before the court and arguments were in the final stages he tried to pressurise the petitioners as well as the court through the said press conference.

A legal expert said that after receiving the written reply of Mr Khan, the court would decide whether to proceed against him under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003, read with Article 204 of the Constitution of Pakistan, or not to press the charge against him. He added that if the court decided to proceed further against him then proper show-cause notice would be issued to him.

A lawyer affiliated with PTI said that the statement of Mr Khan may not be taken in negative sense and whatever he had said was in good faith aimed at improving the system.

He said whether the issue of DRCs or health reforms, both were dearer to Mr Khan. He added that health reforms were in the manifesto of PTI and the implementation of MTIRA was vital in that regard.

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