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October 19, 2020

Mail-Shahbaz ‘meaning’ hearing postponed till Nov 9

National

October 19, 2020

LONDON: The 'meaning hearing' in Shahbaz Sharif vs the Mail Newspaper has been postponed till Nov 9 due to COVID-19 situation, The News has learnt.

The court sources have confirmed to this reporter that Mr Justice Jay will hear the case when Association Newspapers Limited (ANL) lawyers and Shahbaz Sharif’s lawyer at the Carter Ruck will debate the meaning before Mr Justice Jay.

The meaning hearing was set to take place on Tuesday Oct 20 but has been postponed due to pressure on the court schedules.

The publishers of the Mail on Sunday did not submit defence in nearly a year in the defamation case initiated by Shahbaz Sharif. The ANL lawyers, acting for David Rose and the Mail on Sunday, asked the court for a hearing.

Speaking to this correspondent, David Rose said that Shahbaz Sharif’s son-in-law Ali Imran’s meaning would take place at the same time, alongside Shahbaz Sharif’s case.

David Rose Tweeted, “Hello friends in Pakistan. Some of you may know there was to have been a preliminary hearing next Tuesday of the defamation action brought against me by Shahbaz Sharif over the meaning of my article. This has been postponed to a date yet to be fixed after November 11.”

At the hearing it will be determined whether the words complained of by the former Punjab chief minister are defamatory or not.

The meaning hearing in defamation cases takes place when the parties dispute over the meaning of the words and thus it’s left to the court to determine the meaning of the words, as a preliminary issue – i.e. before going to the effort of preparing for a full trial.

According to legal experts, a trial of meaning as a preliminary issue prevents a defendant from wasting time and money by preparing a defence based on an interpretation of meaning which could change later in the proceedings and it also prevents the claimant from pursuing a case which may not turn out to be defamatory enough at the later stage and, therefore, weakening the case before the trial judge. The outcome of the meaning hearing will determine which side has stronger argument. Both sides can still go ahead for the full trial regardless of the outcome of the meaning trial.

The paper had alleged that Shahbaz Sharif was involved in corrupting the funds given to Pakistan by British taxpayers.

The report said the DFID poured more than £500 million of UK taxpayers’ money into Punjab in the form of aid during Shahbaz's tenure as chief minister. "Yet, say investigators, all the time that DFID was heaping him and his government with praise and taxpayers’ cash, Shahbaz and his family were embezzling tens of millions of pounds of public money and laundering it in Britain," wrote reporter David Rose. "They are convinced that some of the allegedly stolen money came from DFID-funded aid projects."

Both sides have expressed confidence in the merits of their case. Shahbaz Sharif has said that he and his family couldn’t have taken any money from the earthquake fund because the quake was in 2005 - before he became Punjab chief minister. Daily Mail will argue that the ERRA fund existed until 2012.