PESHAWAR: A local court on Saturday decided to begin ex parte proceedings against Prime Minister Imran Khan over a defamation lawsuit filed against him by former MPA Fauzia Bibi as no lawyer turned up for him following repeated failure to file statement in the case.
Additional district and sessions judge Abdul Majid announced that the court would ‘record’ the evidence of the damages claim by the plaintiff and dispose of the case on merit.
He fixed Feb 20 for the purpose and recording of the statement of plaintiff Fauzia Bibi.
The former MPA, who was elected on one of the provincial assembly seats reserved for women on the PTI’s ticket, has filed the lawsuit for the recovery of Rs500 million damages for allegedly defaming her by leveling ‘baseless’ allegation of horse-trading in the 2018 Senate polls against her in a news conference.
Despite repeated orders of the trial court, Mr Imran hasn’t filed a written reply to the lawsuit.
Rules Imran delayed filing of statement on different pretexts
“For the last many hearings, the defendant [Imran] has been seeking adjournment of hearing for filing the written statement. This is virtually a mockery of the court procedure and law,” the court observed.
It declared that the defendant wasn’t represented in the court and therefore, he would be proceeded against ex parte.
The court observed that Imran was an important figure of the country but he was not being defended or represented in the case.
“Even not on a single day, a special attorney or an authorised agent has put appearance before the court to show the willingness to defend the case,” it noted.
The court observed that the case was called time and again until the final hours of the court but no one appeared for the defendant except at the end of the court’s time when a person claiming to be a clerk of his counsel showed up.
It added that the clerk had submitted an application on behalf of the defendant seeking time for the filing of his written statement about the damages suit.
Advocate Syed Ghufranullah Shah appeared for the plaintiff and insisted that despite repeated orders, the defendant had not been submitting the written statement.
He said the Peshawar High Court had accepted in Apr 2020 a petition of the plaintiff and ordered the disposal of the case in line with Section 14 of the Defamation Ordinance, 2002, under which the lawsuit had to be decided within 90 days of filing.
The court observed that the case file showed that it had been pending since 2018 and defendant was delaying the filing of the written statement/ reply on one pretext or another.
The defamation suit was filed in June 2018 under the Defamation Ordinance 2002. The only defendant in the suit is PTI’s chief Imran Khan, who subsequently became Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Plaintiff Fauzia Bibi has claimed that in the Senate polls held on Mar 3, 2018, she had followed the direction with effect to cast vote in favour of all the candidates of her party.
On Dec 14, 2019, the court had rejected an application of Mr Khan seeking dismissal of the suit contending that the suit was not maintainable. The order was challenged by Mr Imran before the Peshawar High Court and his petition is still pending with it.
In that petition, Mr Imran contends that the disciplinary committee of the party had inquired into the matter and submitted its report to him being the PTI chairman.
He said the news conference referred to by the plaintiff was held and organised on the report of the party’s disciplinary committee.
Earlier, another application was filed on behalf of Mr Imran under Order VII Rule 10 of Code of Civil Procedure requesting the court to return the lawsuit as the news conference in question was addressed by him in Islamabad, which was out of the jurisdiction of the court.
The court, however, dismissed that application on Jan 30, 2019.
Published in Dawn, February 14th, 2021