SHC issues notice to Ansar on Fauzia’s plea
*Ansar’s counsel contends suit itself could not be filed in SHC under Section 19 of CCP
KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has restrained Editor Investigations The News Ansar Abbasi from making any statement or writing anything without any proof in the newspaper against the PPP secretary information Fauzia Wahab.
The SHC issued this restraining order on Tuesday on an urgent civil suit filed the same day but without hearing the leading investigative journalist and senior analysts, who have though been issued a notice for June 21, 2010.
Ansar Abbasi’s counsel, however, insist that the said ex-parte order is not in accordance with Law and Constitution and legally erroneous and not sustainable under the law and is liable to be set-aside. “The impugned order is also in violation of Article 18, 19 and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973,” said the counsel, Jam Asif Mehmood of Ahmed & Qazi law firm.
Filed through her son Mutraza Wahab advocate as a matter of “grave urgency”, the PPP information secretary claimed that The News Editor Investigations continues to tarnish the image and reputation of the plaintiff. “It is submitted that it is of utmost importance that this urgency application is granted, and the matter is heard immediately, so that the continuous loss caused to the plaintiff is stopped.
In its order, a single bench of the SHC comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar while issuing notice for 21st June, said, “The defendant (Ansar Abbasi) is, till 21.6.2010, restrained from making any statement/publication against the plaintiff, veracity whereof he is unable to corroborate.”
The order said that the plaintiff’s counsel in support of his contention that the freedom of expression envisaged in Articles 15, 16, 17 & 19 are not absolute but are subject to reasonable restriction and that the fundamental duty of every propagator, printer and publisher is to establish that whatever he or they have published is to establish that whatever he or they have published was based upon truth.
The petition is based on Ansar Abbasi’s comment that he made in a recorded talk-show hosted by Dr Moeed Meerzada of a private television channel, telecasted on May 10, 2010. The PPP secretary information, who has also sought a defamation suit of Rs 200 million against The News Editor Investigations, interestingly neither made the private television channel nor the anchor of the talk-show, which broadcasted the alleged defamatory comment against Ms Wahab, who too was one of the participants in the same show.
Meanwhile Ansar Abbasi’s counsel Jam Asif Mehmood of Ahmed & Qazi law firm, said that the said ex-parte order is not in accordance with Law and Constitution and legally erroneous and not sustainable under the law and is liable to be set-aside because the learned Single Bench of this Court had no territorial jurisdiction to pass the impugned order as the suit itself could not be filed for or entertained in the Hon’ble Sindh High Court in view of Section 19 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908.
Mr Jam said that Ms Fauzia, with mala fide intentions, has, just to confer jurisdiction in this Hon’ble Court, mentioned a false address of the Ansar Abbasi in the case.
Even otherwise, he added, the alleged defamatory statement of Defendant, has been pleaded to be passed by Ansar Abbasi, in a television show recorded in Islamabad, outside the local limits of jurisdiction of this HonÂ’ble Court owing to which the impugned SHC order is liable to be set aside on this ground alone.
He said that the impugned order is liable to be set aside as it is in violation of Article 18, 19 and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973.
Jam Asif said that Ansar Abbasi is a senior journalist of the Pakistan and right of expression and speech is a fundamental right of the Mr Abbasi which could not be taken away.
“Even, if the legislature legislates any law that is against the fundamental right of the Appellant, such enactment, taking away or abridging fundamental right, shall be void in view of Article 8 of the Constitution,” he said, adding, “Hence if legislature is not entitled to legislate any Law in violation of the fundamental rights then how the Court violate these fundamental rights of the Appellant.”
The counsel, who intends to filed a review against the impugned SHC order, said that the civil suit was filed during annual summer vacation of Honourable Sindh High Court and matter during vacation only those cases may be fixed before the Duty Judge which having emergent situation and instant case being damages case is not an emergent case. Even otherwise on the day of filing of case, special permission was granted and matter was taken up in Court in the same day and after hearing only Plaintiff side urgent application was granted and without notice ex-parte injunctive order was passed without hearing The News Editor Investigations.
The counsel added that the impugned order is based on one sentence which, under no stretch of imagination, can be said to be defamatory. The purpose of the PPP secretary information, he said, is to obtain the impugned order is based on her ulterior and political motives.
“When applying the law of defamation, a basic distinction needs to be drawn between an ordinary person expressing an opinion or criticizing another person and those of national level journalist who is very clear as to express opinions, views and criticize the general conduct of the Government of the day that is why in all democracies ‘Journalists’ are terms as fourth pillars of the state and a necessary factor to keep all other State functionaries in check and to enable ordinary people to form their opinions,” said the counsel.