Imran Khan's Jail Trial: IHC Annuls Ongoing Special Court Proceedings In Adiala Jail

Court outlines legal conditions for holding a trial in jail, says cannot grant retrospective effect to certain notifications

Imran Khan's Jail Trial: IHC Annuls Ongoing Special Court Proceedings In Adiala Jail

The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday declared as having "no legal consequence" several notifications from the government for holding the trial of former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in the official secrets act in jail. However, it did outline the proper legal conditions under which these cases can be held within the confines of the jail.

This was contained in a three-page short order issued on Tuesday by a two-judge bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC), comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz.

The court noted: "There is no provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 ("Cr.P.C.”) which compels a Magistrate to hold his Court in a usual Court Room."

It added that in exceptional circumstances, and where it is conducive to justice, a trial can be conducted in jail in a manner that fulfils the requirements."

It explained that these requirements include an open trial or a trial in-camera, provided it is in accordance with the procedure provided under the law.

Thus, the court invalidated the first notification issued by the law ministry on August 29, 2023, to hold Imran's trial in a special court under the Official Secrets Act 1923 in jail for "want of an order by the appropriate government and fulfilment of requirements provided in Section 352 Cr.P.C. as well as Rule 3 in Part-A of Chapter-1 in Volume-III of the Rules and Orders of the Lahore High Court, Lahore ("LHC Rules")."

The court proceeded to invalidate four subsequent notifications because they failed to fulfil the requirements listed under Section 352 CRPC and Rule 3 of the LHC Rules.

The notifications issued in November following the Cabinet's decision to hold jail trials were also declared to be of "no legal consequence" because they were not preceded by an order from the special court seeking the special conditions.

The court further said it cannot grant retrospective effect to another notification issued earlier in November.

"Consequently, the proceedings with effect from August 29, 2023, and the trial conducted in case FIR No.06/2023, dated August 15, 2023, registered under Sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923 read with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 at Police Station Counter Terrorism Wing, Federal Investigation Agency, Islamabad, in jail premises in a manner that cannot be termed as an open trial stand vitiated."

The short order comes a week after the court had granted the PTI chief interim relief to halt the trial in jail pending adjudication of his appeal against it. One of the reasons being cited for holding Imran's trial in jail was the security threats he faces, having already been targeted during a public rally in Wazirabad around a year go.

Even in jail, some from his camp have expressed their fear for Imran Khan.