SC tackles Meesha Shafi’s appeal in defamation case filed by Ali Zafar

The feud between Ali Zafar and Meesha Shafi arrived Supreme Court on Thursday, with the top court tackling an appeal filed by Shafi challenging the Lahore High Court order through which her request for cross-examination of witnesses was rejected.

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Following the rejection of her plea by LHC to record statements of Zafar’s witnesses and conducting their cross-examination in separate hearings, Shafi had moved the apex court in April.

Shafi, fighting a defamation case filed by Zafar for sexual harassment allegations, had earlier move toward a trial court then the high court said refusal to record and cross-examine witnesses’ statements in separate hearings was, “amounting to extending undue favour to the plaintiff”.

“Cross-examining witnesses on the basis of their statements only and without knowing them would be impossible,” she added.

Both courts had dismissed Shafi’s petitions, with LHC remarking that the plea was “devoid of any merit” as the defendant was cognisant of the names of witnesses and had a reasonable amount of time to prepare for the cross-examination.

The three-headed bench, presided by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, asked Shafi’s counsel at the start of today’s hearing under which law he wanted the testimonies of all the witnesses to be recorded together.

Justice said it was up to the court to decide how the witness statements will be recorded,  telling the counsel the court cannot do the same “according to [their] wishes.”

Shafi’s lawyer said he wanted to establish clearly before the court  “what had transpired during the jam session”, during which Shafi had claimed Zafar harassed her.

Justice Ahsan, after questioning the source of the lawyer’s academic qualifications, argued whether the lawyer in his 11-year law practicing career had recorded statements of witnesses together and then cross-examining those statements afterwards.

The judge remarked, “there is no such precedent in my 30-year judicial experience.”

But Shafi’s lawyer retained that he can recount several past court judgments to support his client’s plea.

Justice Ahsan retorted, “you cannot because there are zero court precedents.”

The lawyer further asserted that the court had tackled the issue in various past verdicts.

To which Justice Ahsan replied, “a court judgment is not some divine script,” reiterating that court judgments can be wrong.

Zafar’s lawyer informed the bench that the statements of one of the 11 witnesses had earlier been recorded.

The court adjourned the court for further hearing next week when Zafar’s lawyer will present his arguments.

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