ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday withdrew a show-cause notice issued to prime minister’s aide Firdous Ashiq Awan for contempt of court and cautioned her as well as Minister for Aviation Ghulam Sarwar against commenting on subjudice matters in future.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, who was presiding over the proceedings, observed that both Awan and Khan hold positions of high responsibility. “If you [give] wrong interpretations with your words, it will make [the public] lose trust in institutions.”
Last month, the court had issued Awan a show-cause notice which noted that while holding a press conference, she had “criticised the judiciary” and had stated that bail granting order to Nawaz Sharif would “open a floodgate of similar requests by prisoners suffering from various diseases”.
Separately, a petition was filed in the IHC against Khan for linking the release of Nawaz Sharif with ‘a deal’ during an interview.
Earlier this month, the court had reserved its decision on whether Awan and Khan committed contempt after both officials submitted unconditional apologies for their remarks on IHC’s decision to grant bail to Nawaz. In the previous hearing, Khan, while offering an apology to court, had said he did not want to contest the case.
“Common petitioners are the real stakeholders that are looking towards the government and the parliament,” Justice Minallah said during the proceedings.
“We expect that, in future, opinions will not be given on subjudice cases.”
Justice Minallah commended Khan for admitting “that his statement was political” but went on to say: “It is not a good thing to ruin the public’s trust because of political statements. Politicians should [work to] increase the public’s trust in the system.”
The judge regretted that “both parties [in a case] issue such statements whenever [an unfavourable] verdict is issued”.
The IHC chief justice said that the judiciary was not “scared of criticism but welcomed it”.
“We’re not saying that we (the judiciary) have no shortcomings,” the judge remarked.
“We are facing other challenges as well.”
Awan’s lawyer Shah Khawar thanked the court for withdrawing the show-cause notice against the premier’s special assistant on information and broadcasting.
In a detailed written order issued shortly after the hearing concluded, the judge said that the “court is satisfied that both the contemnors (Awan and Khan) had acted in a manner that constitutes criminal contempt”.
The order also observed that both “alleged contemnors are not ordinary citizens”.
“They represent the political party in power and the highest echelons of the executive authorities of the state.”
“[…] They cannot be extended the benefit of doubt for not being aware of the facts and the consequences of their statements which tended to prejudice the determination of matters pending before this court,” the order read.
It noted that Awan’s remarks were issued during a press conference which she held “in her official capacity as spokesperson of the chief executive of Pakistan”.
“The act or statements of [Awan] were at no stage deprecated or denied by the authorities on whose behalf she had held the official press conference, rather the same resonated by other members of the cabinet as well (sic),” the order read.
Earlier, during the hearing, Justice Minallah had advised the officials to read the written order.