The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted permission for recording joint statements and the joint cross-examination of nine witnesses in a defamation suit filed by Ali Zafar against Meesha Shafi.
The decision was made while the court wrapped up Shafi's appeal challenging the Lahore High Court (LHC) order which had rejected her plea for joint cross-examination of witnesses.
Following LHC's rejection, Shafi had moved the top court in April to have the statements of Zafar’s witnesses recorded and their cross-examination conducted in separate hearings, instead of turn-by-turn examination. It was taken up by the apex court on May 9.
Today, a two-member bench of the SC, headed by Justice Mushir Alam, also ordered Zafar's counsel to submit affidavits from witnesses within a week.
The court also accepted the request by Shafi's lawyer and granted him one week to complete his preparation for the cross-examination of witnesses.
Additionally, the court said that after preparation, the lawyers should try and complete the cross-examination within a single day.
The top court also stopped Shafi and Zafar from registering unnecessary petitions and told the trial court to complete the trial soon, without granting unnecessary adjournments.
During the proceedings, Shafi's lawyer said that the singer did not know all of Zafar's witnesses and alleged that they were his employees.
Zafar's lawyer refuted this and said that none of the witnesses were the singer's employees.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa asked what Ali Zafar's main objection to Meesha Shafi's request was, to which his lawyer responded that according to the law, statements are recorded and cross-examination of witnesses is done on the same day.
Justice Isa said that the court has authority to decide whether the recording of statements and cross-examination are done on the same day or not.
Shafi's lawyer said that once they had a list of the witnesses, they would be ready to conduct the cross-examination in a day.
The court wrapped up the petition while ordering for the trial be completed within the time frame decided in the high court's order. On April 9, the LHC had given the petitioners and respondents another three months to argue their respective cases, while setting aside a directive from a Lahore district court that had mandated the conclusion of the case on April 15.
Sexual harassment allegations
In April last year, Shafi had alleged on Twitter 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.