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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC), Friday, deferred the indictment of former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Rana Shamim and the journalists in contempt of court for publishing a controversial affidavit.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the case, wherein, he had already issued show cause notices to Shakilur Rehman, Editor in Chief, Aamir Ghouri, Editor, Ansar Abbasi, and Rana Mohammad Shamim, former Chief Judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan after publication of a news item, claiming that Rana Shamim executed an affidavit in which he levelled allegations against former Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar.

During the hearing, the IHC chief justice told Abbasi that the court had received his application about a clerical error in the order. He questioned what clerical error is there in the order? The journalist replied that in the order, the court had quoted him as saying that even if a claim was wrong, he would publish it in the interest of the masses.

At this, Justice Minallah said that in your application, you yourself had written that you were not aware of whether his claim against Nisar was true or not. He asked Abbasi whether he would publish an affidavit solely on the basis of a prominent personality handing it to him.

Justice Minallah observed that the court believes in the freedom of expression but in this case, a narrative was being built regarding a bench of the high court. He added that the people’s trust was being eroded because of such news items.

Addressing Abbasi, he said that the court was not questioning his integrity but trying to make him realise the effect of the news story. The IHC CJ said that the public’s rights were most important to the court.

He said the prevalent narrative is that the former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had influenced a judge in a case. However, the said judge was not even part of the bench [which heard Nawaz and Maryam].

Abbasi said Shamim would have to answer to the court regarding his affidavit. He insisted that he had followed journalistic principles and he had published the former GB judge’s claim along with Nisar’s rebuttal.

Justice Minallah pointed out to Abbasi that his case was sub judice, yet he was still publishing statements from international institutions. At this, the journalist said that he believes that the court should not frame charges. At this, the IHC chief justice said that you will not decide this, the court will decide it and you cannot dictate the court.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Secretary-General, Nasir Zaidi, also requested the court not to frame the charges against journalists.

Later, Rana Shamim’s counsel Abdul Latif Afridi advocate argued that it was not possible to stop an international organisation from commenting on anything.

He said since one of the suspects was not present in the court today, charges should not be framed.

At this, the court’s amicus curiae, Faisal Siddiqui advocate stated that irresponsibly publishing a news story did not warrant criminal contempt proceedings against a person. Siddiqui added that he was just against indicting journalists. He mentioned Firdous Ashiq Awan’s contempt case where Awan was involved in contempt of court and every media channel aired [her press conference]. He also said that even in that case, no proceeding was carried out against the media.

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan said that the court should indict Rana Shamim and that he would be given a fair trial. However, he asked the court to delay the indictment of the journalists, adding they should remain present during court proceedings.

Later, the court deferred the hearing of the case till January 20 for further proceedings.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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