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Friday Mar 09 2018

Jang/Geo notice for apology, damages: Imran Khan fails to appear in court

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan failed to appear in court today or send a lawyer despite a notice in the Rs1 billion defamation case filed by Jang/Geo group.

Jang/Geo group has demanded an unconditional apology, retraction of all the allegations and sought Rs1 billion as damages for false statements made against the media group by the PTI chief. 

Jang-Geo Group Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman had filed the suit for damages under section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002.

Advocate Amir Abdullah informed that Imran did not appear in court today despite having been sent a legal notice. He said that Imran was sent a notice via courier on March 3, which he received on March 5. 

The counsel presented the courier receipt and computerised delivery report in court.

The hearing was held by Additional District and Sessions Judge (East) Sikandar Khan. 

The court then issued another notice to the PTI chairman and directed him to appear at the next hearing on March 22.  

The defamation suit 

According to the plaintiff, mandate of Section 14 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002 requires adjudication of the matter within 90 days. Plaintiff Jang/Geo group stated in the suit that the instant case is not a simple case of defamation; it is a murder rather a massacre of reputation. Hence a core question arises whether a Sadiq and Ameen can level such false allegations?

The plaintiff said that, under the statutory requirement, a notice under Section 8 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002 has been served on the defendant but he has failed to reply to the same. The plaintiff said that Jang Group is Pakistan’s oldest and largest media house, commanding the largest audience and readership in the nation on account of its long-established integrity and credibility. The defendant, Imran, is a politician and a Member of the National Assembly, as well as the founder and chairman of the PTI.

"That the plaintiffs are aggrieved by the defendant’s unlawful and malicious campaign of defamation running over several years on various public fora. Defendant Imran Khan has made and circulated numerous slanderous and libellous statements against the Jang/Geo group, none of which have been supported by a single shred of evidence. Accordingly, the plaintiff is entitled to relief by the way of injunctions and damages as prayed for in the instant suit."

Jang/Geo group is not only known for its integrity but in addition, for rendering services to the cause of humanity and peace and for their large-scale philanthropic projects, such as Mir Khalil ur Rehman Foundation (MKRF), Aman Ki Asha initiative and PUKAAR for large-scale rehabilitation measures for the flood-affected people of Pakistan. Defendant Imran Khan remained a staunch supporter of the works and efforts of the plaintiff.

It may also be added that, because of his international, social and corporate stature and services to the media, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has a large number of business associates, friends, colleagues and well-wishers in Pakistan and abroad, especially in the UK, Canada, USA, UAE, and several other counties. The plaintiff had also been amongst the first to disclose and diligently report on the details of the Panama Papers scandal, which had eventually resulted in a large-scale campaign for investigation and accountability by the defendant.

"Unfortunately, Imran Khan has indulged in, for several years, maliciously and systematically defaming and discrediting not only his political opponents, but also those persons and organisations who have no political agenda but are perceived by the defendant to be aligned against his interests. One of the most frequent targets of the defendant’s defamatory campaigns is the Jang/Geo group. From year 2014 onwards, Imran Khan has been making statements and assertions of facts about Jang/Geo group, which were not only completely false and misleading but also highly defamatory, disparaging, and damaging and such expressions include uncivilised words like ‘blackmailer’ and ‘Firon’ etc., which cannot be part of public discourse and discussion in any civilised society," said the plaintiff.

The plaintiff attached transcripts and summaries of Imran Khan's statements as well as clippings from the print media.

The crux of the defendant's statements was that the Jang/Geo group has been partial and inclined towards his rival political party by way of broadcasting a victory speech of their leader to influence election results, whereas the electoral process had been completed 5-6 hours before the time of speech.

The defendant falsely claimed that the plaintiff was corruptly allowed to acquire the broadcast rights for the cricket series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Imran Khan asserted that Jang/Geo group is being funded by foreign countries to follow their narrative. He also attempted to create doubts about the patriotism and loyalty of the plaintiff towards his county.

The defendant levelled extremely serious allegations against the plaintiff, falsely claiming that it has a nexus with Indian and the US governments to foster war on western borders and promote the agenda and purposes of these foreign countries.

Imran Khan also labelled and called Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman a 'blackmailer' and 'Firon' and made the false accusation that he had been trying to intimidate him.

Prior to the year 2014, Imran, in several interviews, had appreciated and applauded the Jang/Geo group's efforts for promoting democracy and their coverage of the general elections held in the country in May 2013. However, after April 2014, he started levelling a stream of false, generic, and completely unsubstantiated accusations — broadcast on numerous TV channels and in publications of inter alia fraud, blackmailing, involvement in election rigging, corruption, and financial impropriety against the plaintiff.

By the way of his malicious and defamatory statements, Imran tarnished the reputation of the plaintiff in the eyes of millions of people in Pakistan and abroad, falsely accusing them of being partial towards his rival political parties.

The crux of Imran’s allegations was that the Jang/Geo group had obtained undue financial benefits from the erstwhile prime minister and had resultantly engaged in propaganda/misreporting of facts as to support him.

The defendant accused Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman of blackmailing, called him 'Firon', 'Media Godfather', accused him of being an agent of India and America, of supporting thieves, of using media houses for financial gains, of maligning the Supreme Court through the WhatsApp story, involvement in polls rigging, bringing the army into disrepute, and selling his conscience, etc.

The plaintiff, Jang/Geo group, submitted that all these assertions were not only false but malicious, defamatory, and entirely unsubstantiated by a single shred of evidence. To date, not a single valid example of any alleged misreporting of facts or propaganda by the plaintiffs has ever been indicated by the defendant, despite his constant parroting of such allegations. Instead, the defendant has merely, and repeatedly, decried Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s alleged wealth and assets and pointed to the same as proof of financial impropriety and unethical behaviour. 

"It is respectfully submitted that the defendant has relied on nothing but malicious conjecture and fabrications, and that he has deliberately abused his platform and influence as a lawmaker and party leader in furtherance of his political agenda. Moreover, not a single statement made by the defendant can be credited as fair comment nor protected as free speech, inasmuch as no underlying facts whatsoever can be brought to substantiate or support the same. It is further submitted, without prejudice to the foregoing, that the plaintiffs have at all times remained and continue to be ready and able to account for each of their assets as well as their compliance with all applicable laws. In any event, the fact that no competent authority has raised any complaint of financial impropriety or any violation of law against the plaintiffs is testament to the defamatory nature of the defendant’s statements."

The plaintiffs said that, in the past, they volunteered themselves for an unbiased inquiry for the purposes of investigating the accusations made by the defendant through a committee consisting of neutral and impartial and respectable citizens. However, the defendant and his political party did not accept the offer.

Many of the false allegations made by Imran Khan over the years against the plaintiff had been previously aired by ARY News. A successful defamation action by Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman against ARY News before the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, United Kingdom, resulted in the said court awarding damages to the plaintiff. Such cases by Jang/Geo Editor-in-Chief have been pending with courts in Pakistan for almost four years.

The plaintiff claimed that the false and malicious campaign of the defendant was, prima facie, aimed at provoking and inciting the masses to engage in physical violence against the plaintiff, and members, journalists and employees of the Jang/Geo group, putting their lives as well as the lives of their families at serious risk and danger. "The plaintiffs reserve their right to proceed further in accordance with the law for criminal defamation and other remedies available under the law."

The petitioner has prayed to the court to direct the defendant to make an unconditional public apology and to retract all of his false accusations and defamatory statements made against the plaintiffs, and to address a press conference and issue press releases and to take all steps necessary to cause the publication and circulation of his apology and retraction in all the media outlets which published and circulated his defamatory accusations. The plaintiff may also be granted with damages to the sum of Rs1 billion.

It has also prayed that the defendant and his representatives may be restrained from making any false statements/allegations and/or tarnishing the reputation and image of the plaintiffs.


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