IHC accepts Awan’s unconditional apology but issues her another contempt notice

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday accepted the apology of Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan, special assistant to the prime minister on information and broadcasting, for scandalising the judiciary and issued her a fresh contempt of court notice for making a statement regarding a pending criminal proceeding.

During the hearing of the contempt of court notice, presided over by IHC Chief Justice Justice Athar Minallah earlier today, the premier’s special assistant had tendered an unconditional apology for “scandalising the judiciary”, which the high court later accepted.

Justice Minallah told Awan that she had committed contempt of court on two counts — one for ridiculing the court for entertaining the case as a “special dispensation” and one for trying to influence a pending proceeding of the court related to the bail petition for Nawaz.

Awan assured the court that she would be extremely careful in the future and placed herself at the mercy of the court.

The IHC chief justice remarked that Prime Minister Imran Khan had fought for the rule of law, adding that he was sure that the premier had never instructed her to use such language against the court.

While accepting her apology for scandalising the judiciary, the court issued Awan a fresh contempt notice and directed her to satisfy the court that her press conference was not intended to influence a pending court proceeding.

“[We] cannot overlook matters when the principles of a fair trial are opposed,” remarked Justice Minallah.

The IHC sought her reply by Monday. Additionally, the court directed her to appear before the court on November 5. Awan requested that the proceedings be adjourned till after Tuesday due to a cabinet meeting; however, the court rejected the request and said that as it is a criminal proceeding, her appearance is mandatory.

Following the proceedings, Awan arrived at and inspected a district court, as per the IHC’s orders.

Contempt of court notice

On Wednesday, a show-cause notice was issued to Awan under Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2003. It said that Awan had maligned the IHC while saying that the hearing of a petition on the release of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif was “a special dispensation”.

The court had directed Awan to appear in person on today to explain as to why she should not be proceeded against under contempt laws.

On October 26, PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif had filed a petition in IHC, requesting the court to hear the bail plea for Nawaz sooner than October 29 owing to the former premier’s “extremely critical condition”. After the hearing, which went into the evening, the court had granted Nawaz bail on medical grounds until Oct 29 in the Al-Azizia reference.

Awan, while holding a presser following the bail, had said the government would want to see such speedy trials for all under-trial prisoners and in all cases. “We hope this new trend will be applicable to all cases,” she had said.

The special assistant had also remarked that there was no precedent in the past that the executive was asked to take responsibility for the health of a prisoner, referring to the judges’ questions during Saturday’s hearing. “We are not responsible for his old ailments, including blood pressure and cardiac issues,” Awan had said.

The IHC had on Tuesday taken up the bail plea again and granted post-arrest bail to Nawaz after suspending his sentence. The court allowed the bail to the former prime minister for eight weeks and asked him to seek further extension from the Punjab government.