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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court accepted singer and actress Meesha Shafi’s plea for recording her remaining cross-examination through video conferencing.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Monday announced its reserved judgement on Meesha’s petition against the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) order.

The court said that there was no requirement for the petitioner (Meesha) to go to the Pakistan Embassy in Canada and to involve any officer of the embassy in the process of recording her remaining cross-examination through video conferencing.

The judgment noted that the petitioner is the only defendant in the suit; therefore, her evidence is very much essential to the just decision of the case. The petitioner lives in Canada since 2016 as her ordinary place of residence, with her family including two children, and is not in that country for a short visit. The petitioner comes to Pakistan only when there is a working schedule for her.

The court said that waiting for her such a schedule would certainly cause a delay in the decision of the suit, and forcing her to come to Pakistan from Canada by leaving her children there or carrying them with her would incur such expense and inconvenience which surely appears unreasonable under the circumstances of the case.

The court held that when the judge observes that the right of cross-examination is being abused by asking questions which are irrelevant and intended to prolong the cross-examination with the object of manipulating error, or to scandalize, insult or annoy the witness, he should intervene and disallow such questions.

The counsel for the respondent had requested the court to lay down guidelines in line with the rules and laws of the other countries. However, the bench declined to undertake such an exercise in the present case and said this matter should be left to be done by the High Courts in the exercise of their rule-making power under Article 202 of the Constitution.

The requirement of strict adherence to the guidelines prescribed by the High Courts in the present case may; however, impede the application of the very law declared therein; therefore, we think it proper to make it clear that those guidelines are to be followed by the courts to the extent it is found just and proper to follow them in the facts and circumstances of a particular case.

The judgment said in many cases serious apprehension is expressed that the witness would be under the influence of or tutored by some other person in the course of recording his evidence, or his very identity is disputed on substantial, not flimsy, grounds, therefore the court requires his presence in the Pakistan Embassy in the country concerned and engage some officer of the Embassy in the process of recording his statement through video conferencing, as provided in those guidelines.

The apex court said requiring witnesses in every case to go to the Pakistan Embassy and engaging some officer of the Embassy in the process would also involve some unnecessary delay, expense or inconvenience. It, therefore, left the matter to the discretion of the court concerned, which shall obviously exercise it judiciously for valid reasons.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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