The Islamabad High Court declared on Thursday an intra-court appeal admissible against the jail trial of PTI Chairman Imran Khan in the cipher case and the appointment of a judge of the special court, established under the Official Secrets Act.
A two-member bench, comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Riffat, gave notices to all parties including the federation, the law ministry and the Federal Investigation Agency.
The additional attorney general said that the special court judge was appointed in consultation with the chief justice according to the law.
Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb remarked that the court was in the era of open policy in 2023, adding that it was the era of openness, open court, open hearing. “Justice should be seen to be done.”
Earlier, a two-member bench of the IHC was dissolved and reconstituted before it could take up Khan’s intra-court appeal against jail trial in the cipher case on Thursday. The original bench consisted of Justice Aurangzeb and Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir. But Justice Arbab recused himself just before proceedings were set to begin. In his place Justice Saman Riffat was added to the bench to hear the case.
“What will be the consequences if the trial is handed down behind bars?” the judge asked.
After reviewing the written response of the law ministry, the court said that it wanted to see the decision of the federal cabinet as to how the appointment of the judge of the special court was made.
Additional Attorney General Munawar Iqbal Duggal said: “It is written in clause three of paragraph six of the summary of the Ministry of Law. The summary was sent by the Ministry of Law which was approved by the cabinet and after the approval of the cabinet the notification of appointment was issued.”
Imran Khan’s lawyer Salman Akram Raja said that the chief justice concerned should be consulted for the appointment of a judge. The federal government on its own accord appointed a judge as the judge of the Official Secrets Act, he added.
The court said that it could ask the registrar’s office whether the process of consultation with the chief justice has been done or not. On this, the additional attorney general replied that it was written in the summary that the appointment was made in consultation with the IHC chief justice.
Raja said that it was a federal matter, so the consultation should have been done with the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
During the jail trial, he said the general public, the families of the accused and the media were not allowed to hear the case. A prison trial was being conducted in a small prison cell, the lawyer added.
It merits here to mention that the indictment has been filed in the cipher case and the evidence was to be recorded on November 7. Further hearing of the case would be held on November 6.
On October 16, Justice Aamer Farooq disposed of Imran Khan’s petition against holding the cipher trial in jail.
The judge had ruled that there was no malafide intent in holding the trial in jail instead of court.
Justice Farooq had also said that a jail trial suited Khan since he had raised concerns about his security earlier. He had been told to approach the trial court instead.