ISLAMABAD: The dispute between two showbiz stars, Ali Zafar and Meesha Shafi, reached the Supreme Court on Friday when the latter challenged the Lahore High Court order rejecting her plea for joint cross-examination of witnesses.

Meesha Shafi has been facing a defamation suit instituted by Ali Zafar in June 2018 against her for ‘falsely’ accusing him of sexual harassment on a social networking site.

While denying the allegation, Zafar pleaded before the trial court that she should pay restitution for levelling false allegations and thus damaging his reputation.

In her appeal filed through Barrister Haris Azmat, Meesha Shafi pleaded before the Supreme Court that the decisions of the high court as well as the trial court were contrary to the law, as they failed to determine the material issues of law.

On March 9, Shafi had moved an application before the trial court, requesting for the examination and cross-examination of witnesses together after the recording of their testimonies instead of turn-by-turn examination.

But the trial court rejected her request after hearing the arguments of both sides with an observation that this would cause prejudice to other party. Consequently, the plea was raised before the LHC that also dismissed the same on March 27.

The petition filed before the Supreme Court contended that the LHC order suffered from substantial errors and defects. Both the trial court and the high court have failed to recognise the fact that the discretion in which the witnesses have to be examined should be liberally construed in favour of the defendant (Shafi) so that the objective of fair trial and fair play is achieved, according to the petition.

Moreover, it argued, both the courts also failed to address the genuine and legitimate concern of the petitioner that if she was not allowed to cross-examine a set of witnesses together then her defence would be prematurely disclosed which was going to severely prejudice her case.

The petition contended that it had been consistently held by the superior courts that cross-examination was one of the most valuable rights of the defendant, as it was the only vehicle through which the truth and falsity of a witness could be determined. Cross-examination is the great engine ever invested for discovery of truth and that the opportunity to cross-examine a witness contemplated by the law must be real, fair and reasonable, according to the petition.

It stated that cross-examination was not an empty formality but a valuable right and best method for ascertaining forensic truth.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2019