CJ IHC Athar Minallah warns Rana Muhammad Shamim of contempt charges if original affidavit not submitted by Monday
Rana Shamim’s counsel Abdul Latif Afridi says affidavit against ex-CJP Nisar accurate, wasn’t meant to be published
ISLAMABAD ( Web News )
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Tuesday warned former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Muhammad Shamim that he had till Monday to submit the notarised original copy of an affidavit in which Shamim leveled serious allegations regarding key actors in the judiciary.
Failing to comply with the court’s orders by Monday would invite an indictment on contempt of court charges, the CJ IHC warned the former judge.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah presided over the hearing of a contempt case, which involves an affidavit drafted by Rana Shamim in which he had leveled serious allegations of judicial manipulation by ex-chief justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar.
Justice Athar Minallah warned that there will be “consequences” for Rana Shamim if it is learnt that he had the affidavit drafted for no other reason than to have it published.
The judge said he could not give anyone permission to erode the public’s confidence in the courts.
“No independent judge can make the excuse that there was pressure on them,” he added, making reference to judges’ moral obligation to immediately report any attempts to influence the judicial process.
Justice Athar Minallah noted that the allegations leveled by Rana Shamim were not just against the former chief justice of Pakistan, they concerned a judge of the IHC as well.
Meanwhile, the IHC granted exemption to the Jang Group’s Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakilur Rehman from appearing in person. The senior editor has been nominated in the case on the basis of an investigative report published in “The News International”, which had first uncovered the existence of Rana Shamim’s affidavit.
Justice Minallah said the court has to keep in mind the prevalent international standards of journalism.
“What is the responsibility of key officers in an organisation when it comes to publishing news?” the IHC chief justice asked.
Responding to the query, amicus curiae Faisal Siddiqui Advocate said the affidavit did not seem suitable for publication as it was a private document.
He told the court that ex-CJ Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Shamim was of the view that he had been contacted only after publication of the article.
However, the report’s author maintains that he had approached the former judge before publication, Siddiqui noted.
Meanwhile Rana Muhammad Shamim’s counsel Lala Abdul Latif Afridi confirmed to the Islamabad High Court that the content of an affidavit attributed to his client — in which he accused former jurist Mian Saqib Nisar of colluding to deny bails to top PML-N leadership before general elections 2018 — were indeed accurate. He, however, added that the affidavit was not supposed to be published.
Rana Shamim, the investigative report’s author Ansar Ahmed Abbasi and “The News International” Resident Editor Aamir Ghouri as well as Attorney General for Pakistan Barrister Khalid Jawed Khan and Advocate General of Islamabad Niazullah Khan Niazi were present in court for the hearing. Editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakilur Rehman’s counsel filed an application for exemption, which was approved by the court.
At the outset of Tuesday’s hearing, Justice Athar Minallah recalled that Rana Shamim had said he had not given his affidavit to the media, observing that it had raised questions about the judiciary. “Are these the journalistic standards that such reports are published?”
The report had created a narrative of leveling allegations against judges, Justice Minallah said, remarking that members of the judiciary could not hold press conferences to present their stance. The judges are being pressured in this manner, he added.
“The names of respected judges of this court were taken who were not even present in the country at that time. Why did Rana Shamim write an affidavit after three years? It must be for some purpose,” he further remarked.
“The public was given the perception that the chief justice pressured judges of this court. The timing of the story’s publication is important because [the hearing] on an appeal is under way,” Justice Minallah observed.
Justice Minallah noted that Shamim said he had not given his affidavit to the media, observing that affidavits related to cases were submitted in the courts.
“I am proud of and trust all my judges,” he said, adding the court will not allow anyone to damage the public’s trust in the judiciary.
Justice Minallah asked Shamim’s counsel, Lateef Afridi, to view the case as amici curiae and not in the role of Shamim’s lawyer.
“The late Justice Waqar Seth never said that someone pressurised him,” he said. Justice Seth, who passed away last year, was the head of the a three-member bench of a special court that found former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf guilty of high treason and handed him a death sentence under Article 6 of the Constitution in 2019. “His decisions are still alive.”
The IHC chief justice asked Afridi to not treat the case as a matter of contempt of court. Afridi said his client had not rejected the affidavit but reiterated that the ex-judge had not given it to the media. “The content of the affidavit is accurate but it was not given for publication,” he said. “Where is the document right now?” the IHC chief justice questioned.
The counsel informed the court that the original affidavit was with Shamim’s grandson, who was “underground” in the United Kingdom because he was being harassed.
Justice Minallah remarked that people did not go into hiding in the UK, adding that the high court was being “targeted” and the submission of the original affidavit was necessary for progress in the case.
Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan said he had written letters to Shamim and the Pakistan High Commission in the UK after the court’s written order on Nov 30 to assist with presenting the affidavit in the court.
Responding to Afridi’s claim that Shamim’s grandson was being harassed in the UK, Khan termed it a serious matter and asked the lawyer to inform the court who was behind the harassment.
Afridi argued that there had been three deaths within a short span of time in Shamim’s family and requested the court to allow the ex-GB chief justice to fly abroad so he could produce the original affidavit.
“Rana Shamim does not need to go abroad. He cannot go abroad,” the IHC chief justice said, iterating that the original document was necessary to make progress in the case.
If the ex-judge had written the affidavit for some other purpose and it was not meant for publication, there would be consequences, Justice Minallah warned.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Afridi said Shamim “himself accepts that it (the affidavit) is correct. Whatever is in the affidavit, whatever happened, is correct”.
The court has directed Rana Shamim to submit his original affidavit till December 13 and also warned of indicting him in the case if he fails to present the document. Later, the hearing was adjourned until Monday.