IHC Reserves Verdict on Imran Khan’s Request for Virtual Court Appearances

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman and former PM Imran Khan requested to appear virtually in court due to security threats, but the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has reserved judgement.

Khan made his request in a petition submitted in March through attorney Faisal Chaudhry, who also cited security issues and claimed that court proceedings were being held up for the same reason.

The former premier also asked for “strict security” if he were to appear in court in the federal capital while being investigated in the Toshakhana case.

Imran was given permission to attend the hearing for his pre-arrest bail in three FIRs, including an alleged attack on police officers and setting fire to state properties in the Zaman Park area, last week via video link by a special anti-terrorism court (ATC).

A similar request, though, is still pending with the Lahore High Court (LHC).

Salman Akram Raja, Imran’s attorney, made his case during the IHC hearing by citing the Meesha Shafi v. Ali Zafar case, in which the former was allowed to continue her cross-examination via video link.

Raja emphasised that Imran’s security was under serious threat and that new charges were “piling up daily.”

He contended that the primary justification for the need for the accused to be present when charges are being laid is for their own benefit, which could be satisfied with virtual court appearances.

IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq replied that the requirement for appearances varies depending on where the case is in the legal process.

Since the outcome of this case would have an effect on other cases, the judge expressed concern about allowing the same flexibility when charges are to be framed.

According to the Additional Attorney General (AAG), it is best to avoid giving the impression that a particular person is receiving this type of relief. There should be no discrimination in any orders that are given.

The court noted that the trial could be held via video link if all legal requirements were satisfied. The AAG had doubts, though, and questioned whether an accused could even be given the same relief “if they are outside of the country.”

According to Imran’s attorney, such permissions should be granted to those who are “not fugitives” and “willing to give an undertaking that he would not leave the country.”

Additionally, he suggested that the court could order Imran to appear in Lahore at a location of its choosing.

Global debate has surrounded the use of technology in legal proceedings, with some nations allowing for virtual court appearances while others preferring in-person ones.

While in the US and UK, approval to participate in court proceedings via video link varies on a case-by-case basis, the Supreme Court of India has made its ruling public via video link.

There are currently no established regulations for virtual court appearances in Pakistan, though.

The decision of the Islamabad High Court in Imran Khan’s case will have significant repercussions for Pakistan’s legal system.

The court’s ruling will determine the legal status of online court appearances and the place of technology in the nation’s judicial system.

Imran Khan has asked to appear virtually, but it is unclear at this point whether the court will allow him to do so or if it will insist that he appear in person given the security issues he has raised.

Written by Imad Khan

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