ISLAMABAD - Former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Thursday served a Rs20 billion defamation notice on Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan for “levelling maliciously false, baseless and politically motivated allegations of his involvement in rigging of 2013 elections”.
“I am claiming this token sum (Rs15 billion) only to publicly vindicate my innocence, which shall be dedicated to an honourable cause, for furthering of a national institution and for the welfare of the downtrodden sections of our society,“ read a statement attributed to the ex-CJP.
In a press conference at the Supreme Court building, Islamabad Bar Association President Naseer Ahmed Kiyani and General Secretary Ch Naeem Ali Gujjar said that the notice had been served on the PTI chief. They were accompanied by former presidents of Lahore High Court Bar Association, Rawalpindi bench, Taufiq Asif and Sheikh Ahsanud Din, as well as legal team of the ex-CJP.
The notice read that Rs15 billion have been claimed as damages, while Rs5 billion are in compensation for mental agonies, torture, harassment and humiliation caused to the CJP and his family.
The former CJP said that under Section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance, 2002, he may withdraw the claim if Imran Khan willingly tenders an unconditional apology or agrees to pay the damages within 14 days.
“If an unconditional apology is not tendered, then I would have no option but to bring a civil action against you (Imran) before the competent forum in accordance with law,” the notice read, adding, “I also reserve my right to initiate other civil and criminal proceedings against you, in accordance with the law, both inside and outside Pakistan.”
After the retirement of Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as CJP, Imran Khan in TV talk shows and speeches in public rallies and press conferences started using what the former chief justice claims to be slanderous, malicious and preposterous language. Imran also alleged that the ex-CJP was involved in rigging of 2013 general elections to favour a political party (PML-N).
Imran equated Justice Chaudhry with the proverbial ‘Indian Umpire’, who is alleged to favour one of the teams dishonestly. “Iftikhar Chaudhry has very cheaply sold himself in exchange for favouring the PML-N in the general election of 2013 by having his son inducted in the Balochistan Investment Board,” the PTI chief had said in a rally.
Justice Chaudhry said, “I believe in exercising self-restraint and tolerance in personal matters. Yet, on 24th and 27th of June 2014, Imran crossed all bounds of civility.”
He reminded Imran that allowing judicial officers to act as DROs and ROs in general elections was not his sole decision; rather it was the decision of the NJPMC, which comprises the chief justices of all the High Courts. He asked the PTI chief, “Can you show a single document or a single statement wherein I asked the ROs to help any candidate or political party?”
Iftikhar Chaudhry reiterated that the Chief Justice of Pakistan is not responsible for appointing DROs and ROs for elections. The DROs and ROs are members of the district judiciary, which comes under the administrative control of High Courts. “Except for the Chief Justices of the respective High Courts, no one can depute Judicial Officers for election duty.”
“Your allegations serve no purpose except maligning me,“ he added.
The ex-CJP said that in the contempt of court case against him in the Supreme Court, the PTI chief had made a commitment not to use such language in future. The ex-CJP said in many documents like white papers; in a number of petitions filed by the losing candidates of PTI before the Election Commission and tribunals; and in the reply filed by Imran Khan in contempt notice, the PTI or Imran did not ever raise even a single allegation of any kind against him (the ex-CJP).
It seems the PTI chief has been doing all this deliberately, falsely and maliciously to damage his reputation and the good name “which I have earned as a result of hard work and struggle for the rule of law over decades”, Justice Chaudhry said. “You have severely harmed my reputation in front of all the right-thinking people of this country, and internationally.”
The former CJP said Imran Khan wanted to take revenge from the apex court for not getting relief on four constituencies, where he had alleged of rigging. “Imran did not seem to realise that independent courts do not act on anyone’s whims and fancies, but are bound by the law and the constitution. Perhaps you had hoped that your political might would allow you to extract ‘forced justice’ from the Supreme Court,” the notice said.