The Supreme Court, while admitting a petition filed by Meesha Shafi, ordered the officials concerned to stop the criminal proceedings against the singer in the defamation case filed by Ali Zafar.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa issued these remarks today, adding that the civil proceedings against Meesha would continue. He issued notices to the attorney general and Punjab advocate general and stayed the proceedings for an indefinite period of time.
Meesha had filed a petition against Section 20 of the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), which had been admitted into court today.
The Justice said that Section 20 – which is considered null and void by the Islamabad High Court, was considered legitimate by the Lahore High Court. “What would be the constitutional status of two [high court] rulings that contradict each other,” he questioned.
When the Justice questioned whether a defamation case could be filed under criminal law, Meesha’s lawyer responded that defamation was a non-criminal case, and its penalty was usually the imposition of a fine.
The Justice then asked “Why is the freedom to express being turned into a criminal act?”
He further asked whether there will be a criminal case for calling someone a thief, adding that nowadays ‘thief, thief’ was heard everywhere on TV, and aspersions were being cast even on judges, but that didn’t mean there should be criminal proceedings.
Ali Zafar’s lawyer chimed in and said that these campaigns attract defamatory proceedings, and that a social media campaign had been started on social media against his client. Justice Isa said he knew and understood what was defamatory on social media and adjourned the hearing.