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IHC set to indict Rana Shamim, others in affidavit case

IHC set to indict Rana Shamim, others in affidavit case

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) is expected to indict former Gilgit-Baltistan chief justice Rana Shamim, Jang Group owner Mir Shakeelur Rehman and senior journalists Ansar Abbasi and Aamir Ghauri on Friday in connection with a news report about an affidavit that accused former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar of trying to delay the release from prison of top PML-N leadership.

During the last hearing, Shamim had opened his original affidavit — submitted earlier in December, more than a month after it was mentioned in the report published in The News — on the court's instructions. IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had asked Shamim if the document was the former judge's affidavit and whether he had sealed it himself to which Shamim replied in the affirmative.

In the 'leaked' affidavit, on which journalist Ansar Abbasi's report was based, Shamim allegedly stated that Nisar, during his visit to GB, made a call to an IHC judge and asked him to ensure that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were not released on bail before July 25, 2018 general elections. The affidavit was published as part of an investigative report by The News on Nov 15.

Justice Minallah had subsequently taken notice of the report and later issued show-cause notices to Abbasi, Rehman, Ghouri as well as Shamim under the Contempt of Court Ordinance.

In a written order issued last month, the IHC chief justice had appointed Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan as prosecutor in the contempt of court case.

The contents of the affidavit, as reported in the daily, cast aspersions on the IHC and its judges, and also prima facie appeared to be an attempt to influence the court's proceedings, and obstruct and interfere with due administration of justice, wrote Chief Justice Minallah.

He pointed out that the document was not part of any judicial record nor presented before any other authority. It appeared that the news report had been published by the newspaper without taking reasonable care.

According to the order, the timing of the affidavit's execution and publication of a news report soon afterwards was a crucial factor because of its consequences for the pending judicial proceedings and administration of justice.

The silence of the former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan for more than three years regarding alleged grave misconduct on the part of the former chief justice of Pakistan also made his trustworthiness and probity questionable, Justice Minallah wrote in his order.

It initially appeared to the court that the role of Rehman, Ghauri and Abbasi was only to the extent of failing to take reasonable care before publishing a news report based on a leaked document. However, the stance of the latter two alleged contemnors is that they were justified in publishing a document, having no evidentiary value whatsoever, because it was in the 'public interest'.

"This stance does not appear to be in consonance with the best international practices in the field of journalism," the IHC's chief justice wrote.

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