Journalist summoned in Supreme Court registrar defamation case
By: Malik Asad
ISLAMABAD: A local court, on Saturday, summoned editor-in-chief Friday Times (FT), Najam Sethi, on January 26, in regard to a defamation case filed by the registrar Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) Dr Faqir Hussain.
According to the plaintiff’s counsel the defamatory content appears in the anonymous section of the magazine ‘Such Gup’, in which it was alluded to the registrar benefiting from the real estate tycoon, Malik Riaz, who owns Bahria Town (BT). The SC registrar is seeking Rs500 million in damages.
Even though the plaintiff’s counsel admitted that his client (SC registrar) owned two houses in BT, which were bought in the open market.
District and sessions judge “west” of Islamabad, Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan, summoned editor-in-chief Najam Sethi of the weekly magazine Friday Times (FT), on January 26, after a defamation suit was filed by the registrar Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) Dr Faqir Hussain.
Dr Hussain in the legal suit demanded Rs500 million in damages from FT, for publishing allegedly defamatory content. SC registrar alleged that FT accused him of being amongst the beneficiaries of Malik Riaz and received two houses in Bahria Town (BT).
The relevant portion of the magazine which was challenged in the court appeared in FT edition of August 17-23, 2012 issue, under the title of “Tip of the iceberg” in the anonymous ‘Such Gup’ segment of the magazine.
The section read: “the Tony affair is just the tip of the iceberg, we hear. The contagion seems to have spread to other officials associated with the hallowed halls of justice. It is rumoured that the gent who’s supposed to register all and sundry has also been the recipient of the Town Tycoon’s largesse to the tune of two houses.”Barrister Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb, counsel of Dr Hussain told the court that “the defamatory story is suggestive of the plaintiff (Dr Hussain) being the recipient of two houses from the ‘Town Tycoon’, which is an obvious reference to the former chairman of BT Malik Riaz Hussain.”
He said that the use of the word “contagion”, which means spreading of disease by contact, corrupting influence, in the story is suggestive of the plaintiff being involved in some sort of corruption.
According to the counsel, the allegations and accusations made in the defamatory story against SC registrar are libelous and defamatory.
However, the counsel admitted before the court that the SC registrar owns two houses in BT.
He said that his plaintiff (Dr Hussain) had purchased two 8 marla houses in BT. One house was purchased by the plaintiff, in the name of his son, in the open market from an allottee and the other was purchased from BT at market rates.
He contended that the plaintiff ownership of these houses is not the consequence of any “largesse,” rather it was maliciously alleged in the story.
Barrister Aurangzeb told the court that on September 27, 2012, a legal notice under section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance, 2002, was sent to FT and was repeated on October 19, 2012, in which the defendant (Mr Sethi) was asked to pay a sum of Rs500 million as damages for publishing the story and demanded a retraction of the story and an apology within two weeks.
He requested the court to issue a decree for a sum of Rs500 million in favour of the plaintiff (Dr Hussain) and restraining the defendant (Mr Sethi), permanently, from writing and publishing any defamatory material against his client.
Reply to notice
However, Mr Sethi on November 1, 2012 sent a reply to the legal notice. He neither paid the damages claimed by the plaintiff nor retracted the defamatory story, nor communicated an apology, said Mr Hussain’s counsel, adding the reply contained an admission to the defamation.
Adjourned till Jan 26
The court restrained Mr Sethi from writing defamatory stories against SC registrar Dr Hussain and adjourned the hearing of the matter till January 26. When contacted, Mr Sethi was not available for comments.