Produce evidence to prove claims, IHC’s ‘open challenge’ to ex-chief judge

| Court serves show-cause notices to Rana Shamim and others

| Rejects apology requests by respondents

It was his (judge’s) duty to have reported the matter to Supreme Judicial Council: Justice Athar 

ISLAMABAD   –  The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday issued show-cause notices to all respondents during hearing of the case related to the allegations of former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) Justice (retd) Rana Shamim against former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar. Rejecting the apology requests by the respondents, the court asked them to submit written reply in response to the show-cause notices till next date.

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the case and issued show cause notices to Shakil ur Rehman, Editor-in-Chief, Aamir Ghouri, Editor, Ansar Abbasi and Rana Mohammad Shamim, former chief judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit Baltistan.

The chief justice remarked it was an open challenge if anybody proved that the bench, hearing the cases of Nawaz Sharif, was dissolved on the instructions of somebody then he would take full responsibility.

The court said that the ex-chief judge and the said journalist would have to present evidence to prove their claims. This court wouldn’t take time to initiate contempt of court proceeding against ex-judge. The court asked Ansar Abbasi that he was a journalist instead of a messenger.

The IHC bench issued the show cause notices under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003. The court directed the alleged contemnors to submit their respective replies within seven days while the alleged contemnors are directed to appear in person on November 26.

The court also said in its order, “Keeping in view the importance of the questions raised in the petition in hand, it would be appropriate to appoint amici curiae for assistance. The Vice Chairman, Pakistan Bar Council, the President, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Faisal Siddiqui, ASC and Ms Reema Omer are appointed as amici curiae. The Attorney General for Pakistan or the Advocate General, Islamabad Capital Territory, as the case may be shall prosecute the alleged contemnors.”

During the hearing, Mir Shakil ur Rehman, Aamir Ghouri and Ansar Abbasi appeared before the court pursuant to the order dated 15.11.2021 while Ahmed Hassan Rana Advocate appeared on behalf of Rana Mohammad Shamim.

He informed the bench that the latter was not well and, therefore, he could not appear in the court. Then, Ansar Abbasi was asked whether he had contacted the Registrar of this court before filing his news report and whether the verification of the contents of the purported affidavit was made in accordance with the editorial policy and journalistic norms.

Abbasi stated that confirmation of the affidavit was sought from its executor i.e. Rana Mohammad Shamim. He further stated that he was only a “messenger” and had not violated any journalistic norm.

However, the IHC bench observed that admittedly no attempt was made to seek clarification from the Registrar of this court nor to verify the contents of the purported affidavit. It added that he was unaware that Justice Khawaja Aamir Farooq was not a member of the Bench nor that the latter at the relevant time was abroad on ex-Pakistan leave.

Justice Athar said that the counsels for the appellants who were seeking suspension of sentence were also not contacted to verify whether they had requested that the petition be fixed before the general elections which were held on 25.07.2018. The then Registrar of the Supreme Court, referred to in the purported affidavit was also not contacted.

The IHC CJ further said that he could also not give any satisfactory justification for notarization of the purported affidavit, in the United Kingdom on 10.11.2021, while the brother of the executor had passed away in Pakistan on 06.11.2021.

Justice Athar noted that Rana Mohammad Shamim was appointed as Chief Judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit Baltistan in 2015 and it is an admitted position that he asserts to have over heard the conversation of the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar in July, 2018.

He added that Ansar Abbasi did not inquire from him regarding his silence for almost four years and the allegations made in the purported affidavit definitely amounted to grave misconduct.

“It was his duty to have immediately reported the matter to the Supreme Judicial Council because he himself was holding a responsible judicial office. There is also no explanation of the timing of releasing the purported affidavit to a reputable newspaper because the matter related to pending proceedings and the appeals were fixed for hearing on 17.11.2021,” said the IHC CJ.

He maintained, “The inaction on part of Rana Mohammad Shamim and his subsequent conduct was unbecoming of a judicial officer and, prima-facie, raises questions regarding his bona fide and integrity. The aforementioned crucial factors were not verified by Ansar Abbasi, Aamir Ghouri and Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman.”

Justice Athar continued that in the facts and circumstances, there is a presumption that the contents of the purported affidavit are false unless it is rebutted. He also noted that the purported affidavit was not part of any judicial proceedings. It related to the appeals pending before this court and which were fixed for hearing on 17.11.2021.

“The Editor and Editor-in-Chief were unable to give a satisfactory explanation in the light of the editorial principles and tenets of journalism. The objective to publish the news story regarding the purported affidavit, prima-facie, appears to have been an attempt to obstruct the administration of justice,” said the IHC CJ.

He remarked that judges ought to be accountable and open to criticism. But interference with the administration of justice, casting unfounded aspersions on the integrity, independence and impartiality of a Court, shakes the foundations of the source of justice and the confidence of the people in the judicial system.

He added that imputing oblique motives, impropriety, bias and improper motives, particularly in pending proceedings obstructs the course of justice. Bonafide criticism must be encouraged but interference with the administration of justice affects the litigants because when confidence of the people is eroded in the Courts, it becomes impossible to protect their rights and liberties.

Justice Athar said, “The news report and the purported affidavit have cast scandalous aspersions on the integrity, independence and impartiality of the Court and its judges. Liberty of the press and freedom of speech are of paramount importance but they are not absolute. They are subservient to proper administration of justice.”

“The alleged contemnors have attempted to undermine public confidence in the impartiality and independence of this Court and its Honourable Judges. The report published in “The News” and contents of the purported affidavit, prima-facie, tends to influence the proceedings and determination in a pending matter. They have attempted to obstruct the administration of justice. They have failed to give a plausible explanation as to why proceedings under the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003 should not be initiated against them,” said the IHC CJ.

He further said that this is an opportunity for holding this Court accountable. The onus is on the alleged contemnors to establish their bonafides by satisfying that the alleged aspersions are not unfounded to the extent of this Court and its judges.

The chief justice remarked there was a difference between social media and a newspaper as it had an editorial policy. Apparently, the affidavit was seemed fake, he said, adding that the former chief judge was served notice because of newspaper’s report.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked that he had full confidence on judges of IHC that’s why he had initiated this case.

The chief justice noted that many times social media campaigns were launched against him, if someone give affidavit then whether the newspaper would publish it on front page.   

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