The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday set aside an earlier directive from a Lahore district court that had mandated a conclusion to the Ali Zafar-Meesha Shafi defamation case on April 15, instead giving the petitioners and respondents another three months to argue their respective cases.
According to the counsel for Meesha, the court also stated that Meesha's legal team cam seek a further extension if need be. "Our stance — i.e. difficulty involved in concluding the trial, involving examination of more than forty witnesses till 15.04.2019 — stands vindicated today," he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Ali Zafar's lawyer, Ambreen Qureshi, described it as "a great day for us [...] as now the honourable high court has given orders to decide the case in 90 days which Meesha and her team have been trying to delay since last one year by seeking adjournment after adjournment and filing various applications."
The LHC's Justice Masood Jahangir, taking up a petition filed by singer, model and actress Meesha Shafi, had reviewed a lower court's earlier order to decide the case by April 15.
Shafi in her petition had argued that the order to decide the case in two weeks was in contradiction with ground realities and sought more time to produce witnesses in her favour in the case against Zafar, who she alleges sexually harassed her and others on multiple occasions.
Following the allegations last year, Zafar had filed a Rs1 billion defamation suit against Shafi.
Sexual harassment allegations
In April, last year, Shafi on Twitter alleged that fellow musician and actor Zafar had sexually harassed her on multiple occasions.
"I have been subjected, on more than one occasion, to sexual harassment of a physical nature at the hands of a colleague from my industry: Ali Zafar. These incidences did not happen when I was young, or just entering the industry.
"This happened to me despite the fact that I am an empowered, accomplished woman who is known for speaking her mind! This happened to me as a mother of two children," she had claimed.
Hours after Shafi's tweets, Zafar released a statement categorically denying "any and all claims of harassment lodged against me by Shafi".
He then filed a defamation case against Shafi for damages worth Rs1 billion in June 2018.
Shafi in a response to the petition in Oct 2018 stated that Zafar had harassed her on more than two occasions. "Ali Zafar harassed [me] at a private studio and family functions," she said.
She stated that she had been "compelled" to take action against Zafar because of the harassment incidents, adding that Zafar had harassed several female artists other than herself.
"I will also provide evidence [of the allegations] when the court asks for it," Shafi had said.