CJ IHC Athar Minallah seals Rana Muhammad Shamim’s original affidavit till next hearing
ISLAMABAD ( Web News )
Former chief judge Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Muhammad Shamim on Monday submitted in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) his original affidavit — in which he reportedly accuses fellow former chief justice of Pakistan justice (retd) Mian Saqib Nisar of collusion to deny bails to top PML-N leadership prior to the 2018 general elections — more than a month after the affidavit was mentioned in an investigative report in “The News International”.
In the last hearing on December 13, the CJ IHC had deferred the framing of charges in a contempt of court case against the ex-judge and three others and again directed Rana Muhammad Shamim to submit the original affidavit, having previously directed him to submit it in hearings on November 30 and December 7.
In a written order on December 10, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had warned that charges would be framed if the maker of the affidavit, Rana Muhammad Shamim, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakeelur Rehman, senior journalist Ansar Ahmed Abbasi and resident editor Amer Ghouri failed to show it was executed and published for bona fide purpose.
During Monday’s hearing, the additional attorney general informed the court that Attorney General for Pakistan Barrister Khalid Jawed Khan was admitted in Aga Khan University Hospital and would return by Thursday.
Meanwhile, Lal Abdul Lateef Afridi, Rana Shamim’s legal counsel, informed the court that the affidavit had been submitted to the IHC and the former judge has been “standing by his statement since the first day”.
“The real affidavit was sealed and has now been brought to Pakistan on the court’s order,” he said.
Justice Athar Minallah said the sealed envelope was in its original condition and had not been opened by the court yet.
“The attorney general had said the media’s role is secondary. Rana Shamim has admitted that the content published in the newspaper (The News report) is [the same as] in his affidavit. Rana Shamim has cast doubt on all judges of the IHC,” the chief justice said, adding that the court had already made it clear that it did not fear criticism.
Justice Minallah then turned to Shamim’s counsel and asked him to open the envelope, upon which the counsel said that a new inquiry could be started by opening a sealed envelope.
“This is an open inquiry. This is our accountability,” the judge said. He added that Shamim had apparently made “a very big statement without any evidence” and given an impression that all IHC judges were “compromised”. Afridi said his client maintained that he did not “leak” the affidavit.
“Can a finger be pointed at any judge of this court? The court will not ask the journalist about the source of his news. This court is hearing many important cases related to fundamental rights,” Justice Minallah remarked.
The judge called for evidence to be presented regarding the public opinion that was being built, saying the public’s trust in the court should not be eroded.
“This court will not deviate from the law,” Justice Minallah remarked. He added that the next hearing would be held on Thursday. However, Afridi said he would not be able to attend the hearing on that date.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) Secretary General Nasir Zaidi, who is an amicus curiae in the case, told the IHC that freedom of expression could not be considered contempt of court.
Justice Minallah observed that freedom of expression was one of the most important fundamental rights — which the court had also mentioned in its judgements — but the situation was different when freedom of expression was not in the public interest.
Subsequently, Afridi requested the court to adjourn the hearing until after winter vacations were over. However, Justice Minallah observed that the IHC had not issued any notification about vacations. The hearing was adjourned till December 28.
The IHC fixed December 28 for a preliminary review hearing of the contempt case and decided to seal the affidavit, which will be opened at the next hearing in the presence of the attorney general.