ISLAMABAD - Adamant that he will never apologise come what may, Imran Khan, who heads Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, would face a three-judge bench in a contempt case in Supreme Court on Friday (today).

“I am ready to go to jail, but I will not apologise,” was the remark a defiant cricketer-turned-politician made on Thursday as he braced himself for a Friday showdown with the apex court.

Khan refused to back down from his stance, and expressed disappointment over the court’s decision instead, saying he had expected the judiciary to be just and hear out his petition against vote-rigging.

After Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain, Imran Khan is the second prominent political leader who had been put on a contempt of court notice.

He is being defended by a party member and former president of Supreme Court bar, Hamid Khan, before the bench, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar  Chaudhry.

“Prima facie, it seems that Imran Khan has started a deliberate campaign to scandalise the court and bring the judges into hatred, ridicule or contempt,” said a court order.

Imran Khan on July 26, according to the note from the court registrar Justice Chaudhry took the notice upon, told a press conference that the role of the judiciary and the Election Commission of Pakistan in the conduct of general elections was shameful and that the polls were rigged due to the role played by these two institutions.

Nevertheless legal experts held the view that if Imran stuck to his stance and did not apologise, then the court might proceed under Article 204 read with Section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003.

“Imran Khan is a popular political leader and has the right to speak on national issues bearing a direct impact on society,” said Ali Ahmed Kurd, ex-president of Supreme Court Bar Association. He said the tradition of issuing contempt notices to political leaders was not a good thing.

Another senior lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, opined that freedom of expression was the fundamental right of every citizen which the court should respect.

In case Imran Khan is convicted of contempt, he could be disqualified as a National Assembly member under Article 63(1)(g) of the Constitution, like former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan People’s Party.

The note from the Supreme Court registrar quoted Imran Khan as having said the 2013 elections were the worst in terms of rigging and mismanagement and that he wanted to ensure that no such like shameful elections were held in the future. Khan also stated his party had accepted the election results, but not the vote-rigging.

Then on July 29, Khan expressed lack of trust in the judiciary, and alleged the judiciary had a hand in vote-rigging. The very next day Khan stated the judicial officers acting as returning officers remained the most controversial in general elections and that the double standards of the judiciary had come to surface as his candidates were knocked down on technical grounds.

“These acts call for action against contempt of court under Article 204 of the constitution, read with section 3 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003. Therefore, Imran would have to appear before the court on August 2 and explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him,” the court said in its order.

Attorney General for Pakistan Muneer Malik will be assisting the bench.