LAHORE: A court on Friday issued a notice to Prime Minster Imran Khan on an application by Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif for early hearing of his Rs10bn suit for damages under Defamation Ordinance, 2002.
Shahbaz had filed the suit in 2017 when Khan, in a press conference, had stated that the plaintiff had offered him Rs10bn through a common friend in exchange of withdrawing the Panama Papers case before the Supreme Court.
The application for early hearing, filed through Advocate Mustafa Ramday, said the defendant had failed to file a written statement for the last three years, causing no substantial proceedings in the case.
It stated the total number of hearings conducted by the court was 60 and out of which on 30 different occasions, the counsel, on behalf of the defendant (Khan), had sought adjournment while on last hearing, a vice-counsel for the defendant told the court that the lead counsel, Babar Awan, was unable to travel from Islamabad to Lahore due to coronavirus pandemic and the court adjourned the hearing for June 22.
It said Awan, under the law, could not appear before the court to defend the defendant since had had become adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The application asked the court to impose a fine on the vice-counsel for making a false statement and fix the case for an early hearing.
Additional District & Sessions Judge Sohail Anjum issued notice to the defendant on the application for June 10.
The damages suit states the plaintiff had served a legal notice to the defendant, asking him to tender a proper apology within 14 days through the print and electronic media. However, the defendant failed to make an apology and the plaintiff was left with no option but to approach the court for recovery of damages.
The suit pleads that the baseless and defamatory statements by the defendant widely circulated by the media lowered the integrity of the plaintiff and caused him extreme mental torture, agony and anxiety.
The court has been requested to issue a decree for recovery of Rs10bn as compensation for the publication of defamatory content in favour of the plaintiff.
Published in Dawn, June 6th, 2020