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IHC Suggests Judge’s Withdrawal in Iddat Case May be Unwarranted

IHC Suggests Judge's Withdrawal in Iddat Case May be Unwarranted

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) raised doubts about the legitimacy of a judge’s withdrawal from a case concerning the marriage of Pakistan Tehreek Insaf (PTI) founding chairman Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi during her Iddat period, suggesting that the rationale for the withdrawal might not be warranted.

Presided over by Justice Miangul Hasan Aurangzeb, the hearing addressed appeals against the sentences imposed in the case, along with objections raised by the registrar’s office.

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In February of this year, following a trial in jail, senior civil judge Qudratullah sentenced former Prime Minister Imran and his wife to seven years in prison, along with a Rs0.5 million fine each, for “contracting marriage during the ‘Iddat’ (period of waiting)” of the former first lady.

Earlier, the registrar’s office had objected to the high court’s jurisdiction, citing the matter’s pendency before the sessions court. However, the IHC dismissed these objections and proceeded with the hearing of both appeals.

Bushra Bibi’s petition argued for the IHC to adjudicate on the pending suspension of her sentence in the sessions court.

Likewise, Imran’s appeal sought a directive for Sessions Court Judge Shahrukh Arjumand to deliver a reserved verdict, or alternatively, for the IHC to hear and decide the appeal.

Representing the petitioners, Salman Akram Raja contested the objections, asserting, “An administrative order cannot preclude judicial relief.”

He stressed that Judge Arjumand had previously scheduled a verdict announcement date.

“Are you suggesting that the Sessions Judge should rehear it or the high court should take it up?” Justice Aurangzeb queried.

Raja responded that despite completing arguments, the verdict was reserved and not announced on the due date.

On May 29, when the verdict in the Iddat case was expected, the judge referred the matter to the IHC registrar for transfer to another court.

The court noted the framing of charges on January 16 and the recording of witness testimonies between February 1 and 2. By February 3, Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi had been sentenced, with an appeal filed on February 23.

Bushra’s counsel, Barrister Salman Safdar, argued for the suspension of her seven-year prison sentence, emphasizing the sessions court’s delay in ruling on her appeal and sentence suspension request.

The court mused on the potential unjustifiability of the judge’s recusal and pondered whether resending the case to the same judge would be appropriate.

Consequently, the court consolidated the petitions of Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi and scheduled a hearing for Bushra Bibi’s sentence suspension request on June 13.