The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday deferred till December 20 the framing of charges in a contempt of court case against former chief justice of Gilgit-Baltistan Rana Shamim and three others, related to the publication of an affidavit attributed to the ex-judge in which he accused former jurist Mian Saqib Nisar of colluding to deny bails to top PML-N leadership prior to the general elections 2018.
The court again directed Shamim to submit the original affidavit, having previously directed him to submit it in hearings on November 30 and December 7.
In a written order on December 10, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had warned that charges would be framed if the maker of the affidavit, Shamim, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Jang Group Mir Shakeelur Rehman, senior journalist Ansar Abbasi and resident editor Amer Ghouri failed to show it was executed and published for bona fide purpose.
Justice Minallah had issued the order after going through the reply submitted by Shamim in which he explained reasons for executing the statement on oath — dated November 10, 2021.
In the 'leaked' affidavit, on which Ansar Abbasi's report was based, Shamim allegedly stated that Nisar during his visit to GB made a call to an IHC judge and asked him to ensure that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are not released on bail before July 25, 2018 general elections. The affidavit was published as part of an investigative report by The News International.
Justice Minallah had subsequently taken notice of the report and later issued show-cause notices to Abbasi, Rehman, Ghouri as well as Shamim under the Contempt of Court Ordinance.
Shamim, Abbasi, Ghouri and Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan were present during today's hearing.
At the outset of the hearing, Justice Minallah questioned whether a newspaper would publish an affidavit given to it by somebody to "tarnish the image" of a judge.
Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) secretary general Nasir Zaidi, who is an amicus curiae in the case, responded that was a journalist's duty to publish a news report based on facts.
"The sensationalism of the news gave an impression that judges take directions. It should also have been written that the judge [mentioned in the affidavit] was on leave in those days," Justice Minallah remarked.
He further observed that news of sub judice cases could not be published. He recalled that Shamim had said he had not given the affidavit to anyone.
When the PFUJ secretary general said the country's history was "very harsh", Justice Minallah asked him to not go into the past, remarking that he was only responsible for the Islamabad High Court.
The IHC chief justice said he would not listen to any "political speeches" and asked Zaidi to inform the court if there was a judgement related to the ongoing case regarding the affidavit.
"The public's trust in this court has been damaged by one news [report]," he said.
Observing that the IHC was hearing a case related to a verdict of the International Court of Justice regarding Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, Justice Minallah iterated that trust in the court was being damaged.
"Rana Shamim says the notary public leaked the document. If his response is sent to the regulator in Britain then it can become a problem for the notary public," the judge said.
Justice Minallah said that "campaigns had been run against" him in the past but he had never taken notice of them because they were done in a personal capacity. However, he had taken notice in the ongoing case because it was a matter in the larger interest of the public.
"I will not initiate contempt of court proceedings against anyone no matter what they say [against] me," he remarked.
However, Justice Minallah said the court would not tolerate any attempt to undermine the provision of justice or public confidence.
Shamim's counsel confirms contents of affidavit accurate
In the last hearing on December 7, Shamim's counsel confirmed to the court that the content of the affidavit attributed to his client was indeed accurate.
He, however, added that the affidavit was not supposed to be published.
The counsel had also informed the court that the original affidavit was with Shamim's grandson, who was "underground" in the United Kingdom because he was being harassed.
Justice Minallah had then remarked that people did not go into hiding in the UK, adding that the high court was being "targeted" and the submission of the original affidavit was necessary for progress in the case.
Later that week, Shamim's name was placed on the Provincial National Identification List (PNIL) — a 30-day temporary travel restriction introduced in 2018 as an alternative to the more tedious Exit Control List (ECL).
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed had said at the time that Shamim's name had been placed on the PNIL "so he doesn't run away".