The ECP had approached the court on the matter on a reference filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition last year.
The reference alleges that Imran had “deliberately concealed” details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana — a repository where presents handed to government officials from foreign officials are kept — during his time as the prime minister and proceeds from their reported sales.
Imran’s indictment in the case has been pending for a long due to his skipping hearings multiple times, which led to the issuance of an arrest warrant for him.
The warrant was canceled after Imran appeared before the court on March 18 while PTI workers and Islamabad police clashed outside the Judicial Complex in the capital.
Additional sessions judge Humayun Dilawar presided over today’s court proceedings, during which lawyers Saad Hasan and Amjad Parvaiz represented the ECP and lawyers Khawaja Haris, Gauhar Ali Khan and Khalid Yousuf represented the PTI chief.
During the hearing, Haris presented his arguments regarding two pleas filed by Imran, contesting the maintainability of the Toshakhana case and the ECP’s jurisdiction to decide “any questions of ‘corrupt practices and disqualification’”.
He began by informing the court that the plea contesting the maintainability of the case was filed under Section 190-A of the Elections Act and argued that the sessions court could not “directly hear the case”.
The lawyer also read out Sections 190 and 193 of the Elections Act, contending that the maintainability of an application and trial proceedings were different matters.
He argued that a sessions court could hear a case such as the Toshakhana one if it was filed under Section 190 of the Elections Act, adding that neither a trial nor an inquiry had been initiated in the case against Imran.
Haris also objected to the procedure via which District Election Commissioner Waqas Malik had filed the ECP’s application seeking proceedings against Imran under criminal law.
“The application should have first been filed in a magistrate’s court and then submitted to the sessions court,” he said.
The lawyer then requested the court for a break in the proceedings, following which the hearing was suspended for a while.
After the hearing resumed, Haris continued his arguments, during which the judge observed that a sessions court had previously issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Imran in the case.
The warrant, he recalled, was upheld by the court despite an appeal against it.
He asked Haris whether an objection was not raised by the PTI during an Islamabad High Court hearing that the sessions court did not have the jurisdiction to issue the warrant.
At that, Haris prayed the court to adjourn the hearing till Friday next week, but the court denied his request.
In contention with Haris’ arguments, ECP lawyer Parvaiz raised an objection to the maintainability of two pleas filed by Imran against the Toshkhana application.
“The sessions court cannot withdraw its decision. Imran Khan will have to face a trial,” he said.
At one point during the hearing, the judge observed that the sessions court had issued a warrant and notices in the case previously. “Why were the sessions court’s decisions challenged in the Islamabad High Court?” he wondered.
He further asked Haris on what basis had Imran filed the two petitions.
The judge observed that Imran’s counsel Gauhar Ali Khan had submitted an undertaking that arguments would be presented on the two petitions.
At that, Khan contended that they were presenting the arguments but court timings had ended.
“The Toshakhana case cannot be heard the entire day,” added Haris.
To that, the ECP’s counsel remarked, “Imran’s lawyers have been challenging the Toshakhana case in a staggered manner.”
From there on, Haris continued his arguments on the maintainability of the case, saying that the ECP had not directed the district election commissioner to file an application for proceedings against Imran.
He claimed that Malik was not a district election commissioner when the ECP’s application was filed, saying that the signature on the application did not match that of Malik’s.
“Different dates and signatures show that the application is based on false statements,” he contended, adding that the application was not maintainable.
Moreover, he continued, an application could be filed within 120 days of the filing of false statements, according to the Elections Act, but the one against Imran was not filed within that timeframe.
In his arguments, the ECP’s lawyer cited various sections of the Elections Act and recalled that a summon was issued to Imran in the Toshakhana case on December 15, 2022.
“If the court is of the understanding that a crime has been committed, it has the jurisdiction to initiate proceedings,” he said, complaining that the trial was being delayed.
He contended that Imran had “deliberately” not provided all the details of his assets to the ECP, adding that the 120-day limit for the filing of the application did not apply in this case.
“The ECP issued its verdict after hearing all parties and issuing notices. Imran should give the 120-day argument after [his] corrupt practices,” he said, adding that charges against the former premier were levelled under Section 173 of the Elections Act.
The lawyer said a sessions court had to give its verdict in a matter of corrupt practice within three months.
He also asserted that the ECP had given the directives for seeking proceedings under the criminal law against Imran. “Filing an application for criminal proceedings under Section 190 of the Elections Act is not illegal,” the lawyer said.
He argued that Imran had filed the two petitions challenging the case only to “delay the proceedings”.
Following his arguments, the judge reserved his judgement and later issued orders for Imran to appear before the court on May 10 for indictment.
The reference, which alleges that Imran had not shared details of the gifts he retained from the Toshaskhana (during his time as the prime minister) and proceeds from their reported sales, was filed by lawmakers from the ruling coalition last year. On October 21, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had concluded that the former premier had indeed made “false statements and incorrect declarations” regarding the gifts.
The Toshakhana is a department under the Cabinet Division that stores gifts given to rulers and government officials by heads of other governments and foreign dignitaries. According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.
The watchdog’s order had said Imran stood disqualified under Article 63(1)(p) of the Constitution.
Subsequently, the ECP had approached the Islamabad sessions court with a copy of the reference, seeking proceedings against Imran under criminal law for allegedly misleading officials about the gifts he received from foreign dignitaries during his tenure as the prime minister.