The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a petition filed by the federal government seeking contempt proceedings against PTI Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan for "violating" the apex court's orders with regard to the party's Azadi March.
A five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, heard the petition which was filed by Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf.
The reasons for the decision will be given in a detailed judgement to be issued later.
The bench said that the apex court's orders from Wednesday would remain in place, Dawn reported.
A day earlier, the Supreme Court ordered the federal government and the PTI to constitute respective negotiating committees and meet at 10pm on Wednesday to finalise modalities for peaceful and safe conduct of the party's long march to the capital.
However, negotiations were not held as both sides claimed the other had not shown up.
The committees were to meet at the Islamabad chief commissioner's office. It also ordered the government to designate a spot in H-9 where the protesters could rally. However, protesters converged on D-Chowk instead.
The same bench also a petition filed by Islamabad High Court Bar Association president Muhammad Shoaib Shaheen that sought removal of blockades set up to stop the PTI's Azadi March.
At the start of the hearing, the chief justice said the bench had not been formed to accuse anyone but to protect constitutional rights.
He asked the attorney general whether he believed the court's directives had not been followed and some people had been injured after which law enforcement agencies took action.
He observed that Articles 16 (freedom of assembly) and 17 (freedom of association) of the Constitution ensured the right to protest but it was not unlimited.
The attorney general then requested the court's permission to play a video recording of Imran's address to his supporters which was granted.
AGP Ausaf argued that Imran told his supporters the SC had granted permission to protest at D-Chowk.
The chief justice questioned what happened after the PTI chairman's statement.
"Imran then asked his workers to reach D-Chowk," Ausaf replied.
"It is possible that the message was not delivered to Imran Khan properly," Chief Justice Bandial remarked. "The entire issue is to a conflict. Judicial proceedings cannot be based on assumptions."
The attorney general argued that the PTI was granted permission to protest after assurances that the Azadi March would be peaceful.
The court had tried to establish trust between the parties involved through its orders a day earlier, the chief justice observed.
"The court made efforts for citizens' protection ahead of the protest yesterday. Court proceedings usually take place after the incident. The court took the responsibility of being a mediator."
Justice Bandial added that the PTI would also have "several" reservations with the government.
The attorney general argued that assurances given to the court were not followed, to which the CJP replied, "whatever happened yesterday has ended today."
He added that the court could not use the administration's authority, however, it was always available for the people's protection.
The court had stopped authorities from raiding people's homes for their protection and it would maintain its order, the chief justice said.
The chief justice directed the government to do its work in view of Wednesday's orders and said the SC would issue a judgement regarding the case which would be an "example for the future".
He observed that political workers did not have their own agenda and followed the party leadership.
"We are not conducting proceedings in order to accuse anyone," he iterated. "The court issued the order only against violation of constitutional rights."
Justice Bandial said it had come to the court's notice that shelling occurred yesterday.
The attorney general said the government had to call the Pakistan Army in the capital last night.
"The public's constitutional rights are not unlimited. The court order sought to strike a balance between the respondents," the chief justice remarked.
"The PTI has held 33 protests recently. All of them were peaceful. We expect the PTI to be aware of its responsibility."
AGP Ausaf informed the court that 31 policemen were injured in stone-pelting by the protesters yesterday while fire brigades and bulletproof vehicles were set on fire.
However, the chief justice replied that only the workers were clashing on the roads yesterday and not the leadership. "They set fire to protect themselves from tear gas. The leadership could have stopped the workers [but] it was not present."
The court did not have an agenda, he observed and advised the government and the PTI to build mutual trust if they wanted the court's "moral support".
"Political conflict always harms the country," Justice Bandial observed.