ISLAMABAD   -  The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Friday deferred the indictment of former chief judge of Gilgit-Baltis­tan (GB) Rana Shamim and others in contempt of court case against them for publishing a controver­sial affidavit of the former.

A single bench of IHC compris­ing Chief Justice Justice Athar Mi­nallah conducted hearing of the case wherein he had already is­sued show cause notices to edi­tor in chief of a media house Mir Shakeel ur Rehman, editor Aam­er Ghouri and senior journalist An­sar Abbasi and former chief judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan, Rana Mohammad Shamim after publication of a news item claiming that Rana Shamim executed an affidavit in which he levelled allegations against former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar.

During the hearing, the IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah told Ansar Abbasi that the court had received his application about a clerical error in the order. He add­ed that what clerical error is there in the order? The journalist said that in the order, the court had quoted him as saying that even if a claim was wrong, he would pub­lish it in the public interest.

At this, Justice Athar said that in your application, you yourself had written that you were not aware of whether his claim against Nisar was true or not. He asked Abbasi that whether he would publish an affidavit solely on the basis that a prominent personality was hand­ing it to him.

Justice Athar observed that the court believed in the freedom of expression, but in this case, a nar­rative was being built regarding a bench of the high court. He add­ed that the people’s trust was be­ing eroded because of such news items. Addressing Abbasi, he said that the court was not questioning his integrity but trying to make him realise the effect of the news story. The chief justice said that the public’s rights were most im­portant to the court.

He said that the prevalent narra­tive is that the former chief justice Saqib Nisar had influenced a judge in a case. However, the said judge was not even part of the bench hearing the case against Nawaz and Maryam.

Abbasi said that Shamim would have to answer to the court re­garding his affidavit. He insisted that he had followed journalistic principles and he had published the former GB judge’s claim along with Nisar’s rebuttal.

Justice Athar further pointed out to Abbasi that news of sub judice cases could not be published. The journalist said that he believes that the court should not frame the charges. At this the IHC Chief Justice said that you will not de­cide this, the court will decide it and you cannot dictate the court.

Pakistan Federal Union of Jour­nalists (PFUJ) Secretary-Gener­al Nasir Zaidi also requested the court not to frame the charges against journalists.

Later, Rana Shamim’s counsel Abdul Latif Afridi Advocate start­ed his arguments and stated that it was not possible to stop an inter­national organization from com­menting on anything. He adopted the stance that since one of the sus­pects was not present in court to­day, charges should not be framed.

Acting as an amicus curiae, Fais­al Siddiqui Advocate stated that publishing a news story without due care did not warrant crimi­nal contempt proceedings against a person. Siddiqui added that he was just against indicting journal­ists. He mentioned Firdous Ash­iq Awan’s contempt case where Awan was involved in contempt of court and every media chan­nel aired [her press conference]. He also said that even in that case, no proceeding was carried out against the media.

Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan said that the court should indict Rana Sham­im and that he would be given a fair trial. However, he asked the court to delay the indictment of the journalists, but they should remain present during court proceedings.

Later, the court deferred the hearing of the case till January 20 for further proceedings.