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Meesha Shafi files petition of ‘no confidence’ in judge hearing defamation case

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KARACHI/LAHORE: Singer Meesha Shafi on Saturday filed an application of no confidence in the additional district judge, who is hearing the defamation case filed by her peer, Ali Zafar, with the sessions judge.

According to the filed petition, a transcript of which is available with Geo News, Shafi’s legal team alleged that Additional District Judge Shakeel Ahmad is exhibiting prejudice during the hearing and requested that the case, consequently, be transferred to another court.

Judge Ahmad “has shown a clear and obvious bias in favour of the plaintiff which is apparent from the mode and manner in which he has so far conducted the proceedings”, the petition reads.

While the singer’s legal team claimed that this bias was apparent since the hearings for the case started approximately six months ago, his bias “has been confirmed after the serious impropriety displayed by him on 27th April 2019 during the cross examination of the first witness of the plaintiff by counsels for the defendant”.

“The defendant does not have any confidence that the learned judge will be able to impartially and fairly proceeding in the case and hence desires to transfer her above-mentioned case to any other court of competent jurisdiction.”

The petition noted that the judge had “advised the witnesses not to give long answers as he may contradict himself or he may prejudice his own stance”.

The judge also did not allow in court records an objection by Zafar’s team and a protest by Shafi’s team and further refused to let a paper detailing witnesses’ position in the studio into the evidence.

It was the same judge who had imposed a fine worth Rs10,000 for the “non-appearance” of Shafi’s team, which had requested an adjournment as a relative of one of the team’s members had passed away.

Also, in one of the court statements, the judge, instead of giving legal reasons, wrote that “the allegation levelled by one of them, the defendant, is bizarre to say the least”.

The court accepting the lawyer’s request adjourned the hearing of the case till May 11 and summoned additional witnesses to record their statements.

Following the hearing, Ali Zafar tweeted that Meesha Sharif should face the court and pay the damages. “Running away and closing twitter account for #gameofthrones spoilers will not help.”

The singer also retweeted his lawyer Ambreen Qureshi who said that for the eight-time their witnesses including women had to come back from the court as the other party had now filed an application to change the honourable judge

Petition over cross-examination

It is noteworthy that Shafi had accused Zafar of sexual harassment last year, leading to a key debate on the topic of sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement.

It was reported earlier, on Friday, that the Supreme Court had allowed a hearing for Shafi’s petition pertaining to the defamation case and constituted a two-member bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Yahya Afridi.

The hearing was scheduled for May 9.

In her petition, Shafi’s legal team noted that it is a basic right to cross-examine witnesses presented in the court and that the apex court should grant the right, thereby, declaring the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision null and void.

Speaking to Geo.tv, Dad highlighted that the petition filed with the SC was separate and pertained to the court “not giving a right to a fair trial to Meesha”.

Dad explained that what Shafi seeks is “fair trial rights and guarantees which every litigant has under the law and the Constitution of Pakistan”.

Shafi had “challenged trial court’s decision to allow Ali Zafar to produce his witnesses in a certain manner and directing Meesha’s lawyers to cross-examine them immediately after the witnesses record their statement thereby denying Meesha’s lawyers a reasonable opportunity to cross-examine them properly”.

Claiming that Shafi had damaged his reputation through false allegations of sexual harassment, Zafar had filed a defamation suit last year against her under the Defamation Ordinance 2002. It claimed damages worth Rs1 billion.

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