ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday indicted former chief judge, Gilgit-Baltistan, Rana Shamim, on charges of contempt of court for executing an affidavit in London, leveling allegations against former chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar.
The court, however, deferred the indictment of journalists on the request of Attorney General Khalid Javed, Nasir Zaidi, Secretary General Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Aslam Butt, former President National Press Club, Islamabad, as well as advocate Faisal Siddiqui and advocate Reema Omar, amici curie of the court.
The court also dismissed two applications filed by Rana Muhammad Shamim, seeking the initiation of an inquiry into the matter as well as appointing Advocate General Islamabad Capital Territory as the prosecutor instead of Attorney General Khalid Javed.
Rana Shamim had submitted in his application that the conduct of Attorney General Khalid Javed was hostile towards him from the day one of the court proceedings in the matter, hence he should not be the prosecutor in the instant matter.
Earlier, when Chief Justice, Islamabad High Court Justice, Athar Minallah, resumed the hearing in the matter at 10am, Rana Muhammad Shamim told the court that he had filed two applications in the court, so before framing the charge against him, the court should first look into the applications.
The IHC chief justice observed that the court will first frame the charge against contemners. The court was informed that Abdul Latif Afridi, counsel for Rana Shamim, was on his way at which the court held that it will again meet on 11am.
Later, when the court resumed the proceedings, Attorney General Khalid Javed, along with his team, Editor in-Chief Jang Group Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Editor Investigation, The News, Ansar Abbasi, amicus curiae Reema Omer, Nasir Zaidi, Faisal Siddiqui were all present in the courtroom.
Justice Athar Minallah, while addressing Rana Shamim, told him that the court was going to frame the charge against him. “You also remained a judge and you must have conducted the contempt proceedings,” the IHC chief justice told Rana Shamim. “I did not and even I don’t believe in contempt,” Rana Shamim replied.
“The charge is only to get you an opportunity to plead your case and you will get a transparent trial,” the IHC CJ told Shamim. Rana Shamim, however, requested the court that as his lawyer was not present in the courtroom, hence it should be made at a later stage, adding that before indictment, his two applications be decided first, one of which sought an inquiry into the matter.
“Inquiry about what?” the IHC Chief Justice asked Rana Shamim adding, “You have already made allegations against this court in your affidavit.”
On the second application filed against the learned Attorney General and seeking Advocate General, Islamabad, as prosecutor in his place, the IHC CJ told Rana Shamim that this is an open court which has appointed the attorney general for ensuring transparent proceedings in the matter in hand. “Have you filed a case against notary public in London when you had said that the affidavit might have been released by him to the press,” Justice Athar Minallah told Shamim. “Let the charge be framed against you,” the IHC CJ said. However, Rana Muhammad Shamim interrupted and made requests to the court to listen to him.
“Don’t violate the court’s order,” Justice Athar Minallah admonished him. Meanwhile, the IHC chief justice started reading out the charge to Rana Shamim. The chief justice said that “You Rana Muhammad Shamim on November 10, 2021 executed an affidavit in London and despite the ex-judge admitting that the document could have been leaked, did not take action against The News investigative journalist Ansar Abbasi and the notary office in Britain's capital.
"You tried to scandalise the court [...] and now that the charges have been framed against you in open court, what do you have to say?" the IHC CJ asked Shamim. The ex-GB chief judge, however, asked court to give him the copy of the charge sheet so that he could go through it and could reply to the contents of the charge sheet.
The chief justice, however, kept on reading the charge sheet and asked as to whether he accepted the charge sheet or not. Rana Shamim replied that he accepted some of the charges but disagreed with some as well. “Do you feel guilty”, the IHC CJ asked Rana Shamim while reading out the charge sheet to him.
“Not guilty,” Rana Shamim replied to which Justice Minallah told him that the court had framed charges against him and now the court will provide him full opportunity to defend himself, adding that the proceeding will be held in a transparent manner. “Both the applications filed by Rana Muhammad Shamim are dismissed,” Justice Athar Minallah announced.
The IHC CJ told Shamim that he could submit his reply in writing for defending the case. The ex-GB chief judge, however, said that if the court has decided, then he may be punished today but questioned as to why he had been singled out.
"Such an injustice should not be done to me," Shamim told the court. Meanwhile, when the court adjourned the matter to February 10, Shamim said that he was much disturbed, adding that he had to come from Karachi, therefore, the court should extend the date for the next hearing. "But what you have done with the court do you realise,” the IHC CJ told Rana Shamim, adding, he will have to come to the court’s proceedings.
The court noted that as already noted, there is no material or evidence to, prima facie, show that the reporting or publication in the case in hand was motivated or that there was an intent to obstruct or interfere with the administration of justice.
The court held that despite the reckless conduct of the reporter, editor and editor-in-chief, the court, at this stage, exercises restraint by not framing the charge against Ansar Abbasi, Aamir Ghauri and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.
“This is without prejudice to initiating proceedings against them, if during the course of proceedings against Rana Muhammad Shamim, some material or evidence surfaces, prima facie, indicating malice or intent on part of the reporter, editor and editor-in-chief to obstruct or interfere with the administration of justice," says the court order.
The court directed its office to relist the matter on February 15 for further proceedings against Rana Shamim. Earlier, when the court resumed the hearing at 11am, Chief Justice Athar Minallah asked as to whether if someone has any problem with this court. “This is a constitutional court and its prestige will be protected at all costs,” he remarked.
Saqib Bashir, President IHC Press Association, submitted that the court always respects the freedom of expression as well as the freedom of press, hence he pleaded the court not to frame the charge against the journalists.
The IHC chief justice, however, told the journalist that he was also very respectable to the court but asked him to tell as to whether the court was compromised. He said that they had published the affidavit but still had not shown any remorse.
Attorney General Khalid Javed, during his arguments, submitted that the role of the other accused/ journalists i.e. Ansar Abbasi, Aamir Ghauri and Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman was secondary. The learned Attorney General was of the opinion that though they had failed to exercise reasonable care but, at this stage, proceedings under the Ordinance of 2003 are not warranted.
Aslam Butt told the court that journalists were conducting meetings on reporting court stories, adding that a code of conduct would be published soon. He further submitted that he could say on oath that journalists had faith in this court.
“This court is the last ray of hope for us,” Butt submitted adding that they had held several meetings on the matter of sub judice. "Please provide us an opportunity so that we could further deliberate on the issue but submit that charge should not be framed against the journalists," he prayed to the court.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah, however, observed that whatever written in the affidavit was on the record and was published in the newspaper. “We tried our level best to make the newspaper understand but it said whatever it has done was right,” the IHC CJ said, adding that using a big newspaper, the proceedings of this court were influenced. "A narrative was given holding this court responsible through the said affidavit," the IHC CJ observed.
“I have nothing to hide as this court believes in open accountability and if this was not done, then nobody will have confidence in this court," Justice Athar Minallah remarked, adding that one must tell if any wrong decision was given by this court since July 2018.
The IHC CJ said that a news was published that was related to a sub judice matter of the court. “What this court should do, sit silently and lose the public confidence,” the IHC CJ remarked.
Nasir Zaidi, amicus curie and secretary general PFUJ, while appearing before the court, submitted that throughout his life for the first time he was facing the court. However, he said that they had learnt a lot from the proceedings of the court. “Zaidi Sahib please tell me how a lash hit, slow or fast,” Justice Athar Minallah asked Nasir Zaidi in a lighter mood. Nasir Zaidi replied that he should ask this from learned Attorney General Khalid Javed, whose family also faced lashes. Nasir Zaidi, however, contended that if they had made any mistake, either on editorial side or reporting side, contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them. “It will dent the freedom of expression as well as totally destroying it,” Nasir Zaidi told the court. “Should not I write a research paper on it,” Justice Athar Minallah told Zaidi on a lighter note.
“When there will be no freedom of press, then there will be no independent judiciary as well,” Justice Athar Minallah said but added that there were certain limitations as well. The IHC CJ observed that the judiciary was focused on this matter, which had eroded the public confidence, which is unfair.
“I have no concerns with anyone but concerns with this court,” Justice Minallah remarked, adding that the nutshell of this affidavit was this court was to hear a case after two days while the paper published the affidavit.
Attorney General Khalid Javed, while arguing before the court, submitted that for the first time, the representatives of media have shown remorse, therefore, the court should defer the matter of indictment against the media. “Sometime someone is used intentionally or unintentionally, therefore, I request the court that indictment against the media should be deferred,” the AG submitted.
Faisal Siddiqui, a learned ASC, one of the amici curiae, told the court that the reporter, editor and editor-in-chief were definitely reckless. However, he was of the opinion that a case of contempt was not made out. He suggested that the court may pass an order under Section 18(2) of the Ordinance of 2003, deprecating the reckless conduct of the reporter, editor and editor-in-chief.
“This court does not want that Nasir Zaidi Sahib may be lashed out again,” Justice Athar Minallah told the amicus curie in lighter mood.
Faisal Siddiqui said that contempt proceedings against Rana Muhammad Shamim were a due process of law. The IHC CJ, however, observed that the paper also published press releases of foreign media representative organisations and nobody told them that the court has passed some orders in the case.
“Then hold an inquiry in this regard,” Faisal Siddiqui replied. At this, the IHC CJ said that the court's open proceedings are much better and important than inquiry. “This court has been implicated in the affidavit, then there was no need of an inquiry,” Justice Athar Minallah said. Later, the court adjourned the hearing till February 15.
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