The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday declared Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan's jail trial in the cipher case null and void.
A division bench of the IHC, comprising Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb and Justice Saman Riffat pronounced the reserved verdict on intra-court appeal filed by former premier Khan.
Last week, the court halted trial court proceedings against the PTI chief while hearing his intra-court appeal.
In the verdict, the court stated that in exceptional circumstances, the trial can be done in jail, adding that according to the law, the trial can be conducted in a jail or open court.
It also added that the notification of August 29 for a jail trial in the cipher case was declared null and void.
"The notification issued after Cabinet approval on November 13 will not apply retroactively," it added.
However, the court also deemed the appointment of the Official Secrets Act special court judge hearing the case legal.
During the proceedings, Imran Khan’s lawyer Salman Akram Raja said there was a procedure for conducting a jail trial, and the first step is for the judge to decide about such a trial. The judge should issue a clear order based on the reasons for the jail trial, the counsel said.
He further said that after that comes the approval phase of the federal government on the request of the chief commissioner. If the cabinet grants an approval, the high court must be informed, he added.
The lawyer said the judge concerned wrote the last letter on November 8, which did not have the status of a judicial order. A judicial order regarding the jail trial has not come till today.
Let's assume that the cabinet's approval procedure was followed from November 12, the lawyer stated, adding that even then the previous actions would be illegal.
In the Nov 8 letter, the judge clearly stated his position that a jail trial of the case was underway.
The cabinet approved the jail trial on Nov 12, Raja said, adding that after their arguments the judge realized that this should have been the procedure. A notification of the trial was issued on Nov 13.
He told the court that the special court judge wrote that a jail trial should be approved to avoid future complications. He suggested that despite the approval of the cabinet, the notification will not apply in retrospect.
The judge is also not talking about the past, but the future in his letter, he insisted. The Nov 13 notification will not apply to the past proceedings, he argued.
On being asked, the lawyer said he did not think the Nov 13 fulfilled legal requirements as it was issued without a judicial order.
In his arguments, Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan said he agreed the jail trial should not be held in a closed room. ‘I also agree that whoever wants to attend the hearing should be allowed,” he added.
“All the proceedings of the jail trial in the cipher case are so far illegal,” said Salman Akram Raja. “If you want to have a jail trial in the future also, get a judicial order and get it approved from the cabinet.”
Justice Riffat asked if legal irregularities were still present.
The court then reserved its verdict for announcing it later in the day.
At the previous hearing, the IHC had demanded the notification issued regarding the appointment of the Official Secrets Act special court judge, as well as reports about the supposed security threats to Imran Khan.
The court told Imran Khan’s lawyer, Salman Akram Raja, that according to the attorney general’s documents, the process of the judge’s appointment started with the high court.