The Islamabad High Court on Thursday indicted Gilgit Baltistan former CJ Rana Shamim for scandalizing the court and affected the sub judice case through his conduct.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah framed charges against Shamim in the contempt of court case related to a newspaper article that cited Shamim's affidavit alleging that former CJP Saqib Nisar had instructed another jurist not to grant bail to PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam before the 2018 election.
The court, however, did not frame charges against Geo and Jang group Editor in Chief Mir Shakeelur Rehman and senior journalists Ansar Abbasi and Aamir Ghauri, who are also respondents in the case. The court warned them that it will indict the journalists if it surfaced that the news was published deliberately.
Talking to Twitter, head of Geo News Azhar Abbas praised the court's decision not to indict the journalists saying it was a win for freedom of the press to do their jobs.
Justice Minallah also rejected Rana Shamim’s requests of changing the prosecutor and initiating an inquiry before the indictment.
While reading the indictment, Justice Minallah said Shamim had accepted the possibility of leaking the affidavit from notary, but he did not initiate any proceedings against journalist Abbasi and the public notary.
The IHC chief justice then asked Shamim whether he accepted the accusations or not to which the ex CJ said he accepted some of the allegations and not all.
The court directed him to submit in writing if he wanted to say anything in his defence.
Earlier in the hearing, Shamim requested the court to delay the indictment till his lawyer Abdul Latif Afridi joined the hearing but the court declined his request.
During the hearing, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists President Afzal Butt told the court they were conducting meetings to discuss reporting and analysis on sub judice matters.
Meanwhile, Islamabad High Court Journalists Association President Saqib Bashir and Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan requested the court to delay indictment of journalists.
Bashir told the court they were considering a cautious approach in reporting on sub judice issues.
At this Justice Minallah expressed ire and said the news article was not only related to Saqib Nisar but also to the high court and the people involved in the case tried to impact sub judice cases. People were told that judges of the court were compromised, he remarked.
Butt said he agreed to take oath in the court showing journalists trust in this court. “We believe this court is the last hope,” he added.
The IHC CJ noted this was unfair that such a big newspaper did not get legal opinion on the matter as in future anyone could publish any affidavit in a newspaper.
At this senior journalist Nasir Zaidi, who is assisting the court, said the journalists have learned from the proceedings of the case that caution should be maintained during the coverage of cases.
He told the court that a wrong message would be sent across the world if the trial of the case initiated under contempt of court head.
The military courts handing out whips to journalists as punishment and lawyers movement for freedom of judiciary were also a few matters that were discussed during the hearing.
During a light conversation between Justice Minallah and Zaidi, the former asked the latter how a whip would feel and then IHC chief justice asked the same question from the attorney general who said he would ask this from his father and mentioned that AG’s mother was also whipped.
Advocate Faisal Siddiqui who was assisting the court appreciated the statements of representatives of media bodies and said such statements would also come from journalists that they would observe more cautious approach.
Siddiqui added the reporting of this case in the media was against the rules as the newspaper against which the court proceedings were ongoing published statements of international organisations related to the case.
He suggested the court to initiate inquiry into the matter first. However, the attorney general opposed the proposal of the court’s assistant.
The AG said if three journalists agreed to whatever Zaidi said then framing charges against them would be dropped.
During the hearing of the case, Shamim read his two pleas submitted in the court on the orders of Justice Minallah.
While reading the plea of independent inquiry into the affidavit, the former CJ narrated that he wrote it on November 10, 2021 and handed over it personally to his grandson in England.
He attended a symposium titled judicial activism in Pakistan in US on October 30, 2021 as a special guest, Shamim told the court.
He went on the occasion of his brother's death on November 6 and other relatives made him feel that he should write the incident related to Saqib Nisar as soon as possible.
Shamim admitted that he did not inform the Supreme Judicial Council as Saqib Nisar was heading it at that time.
The former CJ said he retired from the post after almost one month of writing the affidavit in which he narrated the incidents which he heard himself.
He also told the court that he never intended to tell these facts but his promise to his wife and death of family members changed the circumstances.
He read that the facts presented in the affidavit should be verified through an inquiry.
It was also important to present the former CJP affidavit in reply to mine and provide an opportunity to discuss it. Till the facts presented in the affidavit proved wrong, the case did not fall into contempt of court case, he added. On the other hand if the facts in the affidavit were proved true, the case would end, he said, adding this would only possible through a just inquiry.
"I and the father of AG were doing practice of law together. But he is against me for the reasons unknown to me," he said.
After the indictment, the court adjourned the hearing till February 15.