Musician and actor Meesha Shafi on Friday petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the Lahore High Court's (LHC) rejection of her petition to have the statements of Ali Zafar's witnesses recorded and their cross-examination conducted in separate hearings.
Shafi, who is fighting a defamation case filed by Zafar over allegations of sexual harassment, had earlier approached a trial court and later the high court, noting that failure to conduct the witnesses' testimonies and their cross-examination in separate hearings "would be amounting to extending undue favour to the plaintiff".
She had also stated that "cross examining witnesses on the basis of their statements only and without knowing them would be impossible."
Both the courts had turned down Shafi's petitions, with the LHC adding that the request was "devoid of any merit" as the defendant was cognizant of the witnesses' names and has had reasonable time to prepare for cross-examination.
Shafi, through her attorney, challenged the high court's ruling in the apex court today, stating that "the valuable right" of cross-examination must be "real, fair and reasonable" to the defendant.
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.
With Additional reporting by Rana Bilal