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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), on Tuesday, issued show-cause notices to Ansar Abbasi and others over the allegations levelled by former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Justice (retd) Rana Shamim against former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the case and issued the show cause notices to Mir Shakilur Rehman, editor-in-chief of an English daily; Aamir Ghouri, editor; Ansar Abbasi, and Rana Mohammad Shamim, former chief judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan under Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003.

Mir Shakilur Rehman, Aamir Ghouri, and Ansar Abbasi appeared before the court pursuant to the order dated 15 November 2021, while Ahmed Hassan Rana advocate appeared on behalf of Rana Mohammad Shamim.

The court directed the alleged contemnors to submit replies within seven days and appear in person on November 26.

The court appointed vice chairman Pakistan Bar Council, President Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, ASC Faisal Siddiqui and Reema Omer as amici curiae.

The court order said Attorney General for Pakistan or the Advocate General, Islamabad, shall prosecute the alleged contemnors.

IHC issues show-cause notices to ex-GB judge, others

The chief justice inquired from Ansar Abbasi had he contacted the IHC Registrar before filing the story against the ex-CJP Saqib Nisar and whether the verification of the contents of the purported affidavit was made in accordance with the editorial policy and journalistic norms.

Abbasi replied confirmation of the affidavit was sought from its executor, i.e., Rana Mohammad Shamim, adding he (Abbasi) was only a “messenger” and had not violated any journalistic norm.

However, the IHC bench observed that admittedly no attempt was made to seek clarification from the Registrar, or to verify the contents of the purported affidavit.

It added, he (Abbasi) was unaware that Justice Khawaja Aamir Farooq was not a member of the Bench, and at the relevant time, he (the IHC CJ) was abroad on ex-Pakistan leave.

Justice Athar said the counsels for the appellants who were seeking suspension of sentence were also not contacted to verify whether they had requested that the petition be fixed before the general elections, which were held on 25th July 2018. The then registrar of the Supreme Court, referred to in the purported affidavit was also not contacted, the IHC noted.

The chief justice further said he (the correspondent) did not give any satisfactory justification for notarisation of the purported affidavit, in the United Kingdom on 10th November 2021, while the brother of the executor had passed away in Pakistan on 6th November 2021.

Justice Athar noted that Rana Mohammad Shamim was appointed as the chief judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan in 2015 and it is an admitted position that he asserts to have over heard the conversation of the former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar in July 2018.

He added that Ansar Abbasi did not inquire from him regarding his silence for almost four years and the allegations made in the purported affidavit definitely amounted to grave misconduct.

Accusations against ex-CJP: IHC issues notices

“It was his duty to have immediately reported the matter to the Supreme Judicial Council because he himself was holding a responsible judicial office. There is also no explanation of the timing of releasing the purported affidavit to a reputable newspaper because the matter related to pending proceedings and the appeals were fixed for hearing on 17.11.2021,” said Justice Athar.

The IHC order maintained; “The inaction on part of Rana Mohammad Shamim and his subsequent conduct was unbecoming of a judicial officer and, prima-facie, raises questions regarding his bonafides and integrity. The crucial facts were not verified by Ansar Abbasi, Aamir Ghouri, Editor and Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, Editor-in-Chief.”

Justice Athar continued that in the facts and circumstances, there is a presumption that the contents of the purported affidavit are false unless it is rebutted.

He also noted that the purported affidavit was not part of any judicial proceedings. It is related to the appeals pending before this Court and which were fixed for hearing on 17th November 2021.

“The editor and editor-in-chief were unable to give a satisfactory explanation in the light of the editorial principles and tenets of journalism. The object to publish the news story regarding the purported affidavit, prima-facie, appears to have been an attempt to obstruct the administration of justice,” said the IHC CJ.

He remarked that the judges ought to be accountable and open to criticism. But interference into the administration of justice, casting unfounded aspersions on the integrity, independence and impartiality of a Court, shakes the foundations of the source of justice and the confidence of the people in the judicial system.

He added that imputing oblique motives, impropriety, bias and improper motives, particularly in pending proceedings obstructs the course of justice. Bonafide criticism must be encouraged but interference with the administration of justice affects the litigants because when confidence of the people is eroded in the Courts, it becomes impossible to protect their rights and liberties.

Justice Athar said; “The news report and the purported affidavit have cast scandalous aspersions on the integrity, independence and impartiality of the Court and its judges. Liberty of the press and freedom of speech are of paramount importance but they are not absolute. They are subservient to proper administration of justice.”

“The alleged contemnors have attempted to undermine public confidence in the impartiality and independence of this Court and its judges. The report published in “The News” and contents of the purported affidavit, prima-facie, tends to influence the proceedings and determination in a pending matter. They have attempted to obstruct the administration of justice. They have failed to give a plausible explanation as to why proceedings under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 should not be initiated against them,” said the IHC CJ.

He further said that this is an opportunity for holding this Court accountable.

The onus is on the alleged contemnors to establish their bonafides by satisfying that the alleged aspersions are not unfounded to the extent of this Court and its judges.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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