LONDON: A UK High Court judge ordered Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son-in-law Imran Ali Yousaf to file a reply in a defamation suit they brought against the publisher of Mail On Sunday, and also ordered him to pay the sum of 30,000 pounds in costs to the defendant.
In 2019, the paper published an article alleging that Shehbaz Sharif had stolen and laundered the UK government’s aid money while he was chief minister of Punjab. Mr Sharif filed a defamation claim against the “grotesque allegation” in January 2020, claiming a retraction, damages and an apology. In March this year, the newspaper submitted a 50-page response to Mr Sharif’s defamation suit.
According to an order issued on Nov 9 by Justice Nicklin of the King’s Bench Division, Mr Sharif and Mr Yousaf’s request for a stay order on proceedings was denied by the court, which has demanded that the two claimants respond to the defence presented by the newspaper and also pay the cost for earlier litigation incurred by the paper for the stay application.
“The first claimant [Sharif] must pay the defendant’s [paper’s] costs of and occasioned by a) the stay application b) his original reply (including the costs arising from the process by which extensions of time were sought and agreed in respect of the same,” the order read.
Minister claims British paper has failed to prove allegations about misappropriation of public funds
Mr Sharif was ordered to pay the sum of 30,000 pounds to the defendant by Nov 23. The court also said both Mr Sharif and his son-in law must file and serve amended replies to the defence presented by the paper, and that if the responses are not compliant under the rules set out under CPR PD 53B paragraph 4.7, they will be struck out.
The relevant paragraph 4.7 reads: “Where a defendant relies on a defence under section 2(truth), section 3 (honest opinion), or section 4 (publication on a matter of public interest) of the Defamation Act 2013, the claimant must serve a reply specifically admitting, not admitting, or denying that defence and setting out the claimant’s case in response to each fact alleged by the defendant in respect of it.”
This means the response submitted by Mr Sharif and his son-in-law must respond by addressing every aspect of the response filed by the paper.
‘Paper fails to prove allegations’
Minister for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb claimed on Friday that the British newspaper had failed to prove the allegations levelled by its journalist David Rose in an article against PM Sharif about alleged misappropriation of public funds.
Now, the newspaper would have to face the law, she said in a statement.
According to Ms Aurangzeb, the trail of defamation case would be held in “December 2023”. She said the judge had fixed Dec 13 for next hearing of the case and the reply on the allegations needed to be submitted by the same date.
The minister said the cost of the case was being paid and “we have already won our case on the stage of presentation”. She said the British newspaper had opted for delaying tactics in the case.
Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2022