ISLAMABAD - TERENCE J SIGAMONY/AMIR JALIL BOBRA - The Supreme Court on Wednesday discharged contempt notice against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on his statement that he never censured the judiciary, but his criticism was against the returning officers who allowed rigging in their polling stations.

Imran Khan, in his 26th July press conference, had stated that in the general elections the role of the judiciary and Election Commission of Pakistan in the conduct of the general elections was shameful.

At the outset of the proceedings, a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, expressed dissatisfaction with the PTI chairman’s comprehensive explanation and repeatedly said he should have mentioned remorse in his reply for uttering the word shameful for judiciary. The bench also asked Imran’s counsel that they were not intending to ruin the career of someone and the court always initiated contempt proceedings after examining all the aspects of the case.

“We were not expecting from Imran Khan to use these words,” Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, a member of the bench, said. Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, even, asked Hamid Khan, counsel for Imran’ "if his client did not have regret for using the word 'sharamnaak' about judiciary then it should have written in its order that the word (sharamnaak) was not an abuse."

He said there was a normal course in such cases, a litigant comes to the rostrum and says that his words were misunderstood, but even then if someone is hurt from this, he tenders regret or apology.

Likewise, the court on August 3 had declared that using the word sharamnaak, prima facie, is tantamount to abusing the judiciary.  On the other hand, it has also been noticed that Imran even refused to say sorry or regret, but he stuck to his earlier stance that he had never committed contempt and would not tender apology for a crime that he had never done.

After the court’s break, Imran Khan, instead of his lawyer, tried to convince the court that he had never criticised the judiciary; he had never named the superior judiciary but had referred to the returning officers in his July 26 press conference.

Later, Attorney General for Pakistan Munir A Malik submitted that this was not a case of disobedience, so the court should restrain in this matter. After the AGP’s statement, the bench did not say any word except “the notice is discharged.”

Earlier, Imran Khan came to the rostrum for clarifying himself about the use of word “sharamnaak.” He said he had great regard and respect for the judiciary and its judges and he had repeatedly said that he never criticised the superior judiciary.

“Yes, I criticised presiding officers for their complicity in rigging in the recent general elections,” Khan said, reiterating that the matter is about the future of Pakistan and the only objective of his comments was to have fair and free elections in the country. The word “shameful” was used against the conduct of presiding officers in May 11 elections only and not for the judiciary”, he added. The PTI chairman said: “Why is it being misconstrued? I only referred to the returning officers.” He further submitted that undermining the supremacy of the judiciary was akin to undermining democracy.

“I have issued white papers comprising 2,500 pages as we want democracy to flourish in the country,” Khan told the court, adding he felt proud as he remained behind the bars for the independence of the judiciary.

“What we are doing is not for ourselves, but for the independence of the judiciary and supremacy of law and Constitution. And we appreciate the judges of the superior judiciary,” the PTI Chairman contended. “You are talking about my credibility, but at the same time do not accept my explanation. What I should do then? My case is of great importance and the court should not take it like other 20,000 pending cases,” Khan said.

He also requested the bench to hear his petition against rigging. Justice Jamali told him that without introducing electronic voting system, no improvement could be expected, particularly, in rural areas. “We know what Article 19 of the Constitution is,” he added. The article 19 of the Constitution ensures freedom of speech.

Separately, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday said that his party struggled more than any other political party for the independence of Supreme Court, which is guarantor of human rights and liberties in the country.

While talking to the media here, Imran said that he had filed around 400 petitions in the Election Tribunal regarding rigging in polls. "Being a politician, I have great concern over it that rigging in election 2013 has broken all records of corruption," said Khan adding his party does not want any kind of confrontation with the apex court.

Imran said that his party's stance about Returning Officers is clear. Last day, Imran Khan had filed his reply in the apex court by his counsel Hamid Khan, with the stance that he had not used any uncivilized words against the Supreme Court; rather he criticized returning officer who became tool in the hands of corrupt politicians. He said that apology is sought when someone commits any mistake. "I have not violated any wrong thing regarding rule of law", said Khan.