IHC questions publication of ‘privileged document’ in Shamim case – Journal

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ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah hearing a contempt of court case against former Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Justice Rana Shamim and three others on Monday, asked the amicus curiae to answer the question of whether a “privileged document” could be published as a news item.

However, the court postponed the formulation of the charges until December 20 and again ordered Mr. Shamim to submit the original affidavit.

The court had previously ordered him to submit the same in hearings on November 30 and December 7.

The contempt of court case against Rana Shamim, group editor Jang Mir Shakeelur Rehman, editor Aamir Ghouri and investigative editor Ansar Abbasi concerns the publication of an affidavit attributed to Mr. Shamim in which he accuses former Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar of manipulating legal proceedings to deny bail to senior PML-N leaders ahead of the 2018 general elections.

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During the proceedings, Justice Minallah noted that Mr. Shamim had, in a written response to the show cause, asserted that his affidavit was a privileged document and was not intended for publication. He wondered how a media house could publish a story based on a privileged document.

When the secretary general of the Federal Union of Journalists of Pakistan, Nasir Zaidi, who is an amicus curiae (friend of the court) in the case, attempted to distract the court from the overall political scenario, the Judge Minallah said he would not listen to any “speeches” and noted that he was only responsible for the High Court in Islamabad.

The IHC Chief Justice said publication of such information made it appear as if the judges had rendered judgments on the directive of a former CJP, which was incorrect. Such a news item tried to erode the confidence of the public and of litigants in the IHC, he added.

The tribunal asked Zaidi to suggest an international body of journalists and the tribunal would appoint him amicus curiae to solicit a response on the issue of releasing a privileged document.

During the proceedings, Judge Minallah informed Pakistan Attorney General (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan that Rana Shamim informed the court through a request that her grandson sent the original copy of the affidavit by courier on December 9.

On December 7, the IHC asked Mr. Shamim to produce the original affidavit and warned of framing charges if it failed.

The AGP informed the court that Mr. Shamim’s response to the show cause notice was explicit in which the former GB Chief Justice admitted executing the “contemptuous” affidavit.

He suggested, however, that since Mr. Shamim had characterized the affidavit as a privileged document and contradicted the response submitted by Ansar Abbasi, the journalist and the press house could be invited to submit a counter-response.

The court then adjourned the hearing until December 20.

Posted in Dawn, December 14, 2021


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