KARACHI: In April, Meesha Shafi publicly accused Ali Zafar of sexually harassing her. While a vehement denial ensued, both parties moved court.
The Aya Lariye singer has filed a case against Ali under the 2010 Punjab Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, her counsel Ahmed Pansota commented. The Jhoom singer, on the other hand, has accused Meesha of defamation, Ali’s counsel Ambreen Qureshi said. Both lawyers spoke exclusively to The Express Tribune to shed light on proceedings.
ET: What is the basic premise?
Ahmed Pansota (AP): Our client Meesha made a very public statement on Twitter. What followed was a severe backlash. She’s an empowered woman. A working mother. She can very well do without ‘publicity’. Meesha finally decided to speak up after being relentlessly harassed by Ali. After publicly calling him out, she elected to take legal recourse.
Ambreen Qureshi (AQ): Our client Ali has always maintained that legal action would follow the April 19 defamatory statement. Under the Defamation Ordinance 2002, any party has six months to file a defamation suit post notification. We moved court well within the window. Meesha had earlier lodged a complaint before the pertinent ombudsman. It was rejected.
ET: Why was this so?
AP: Before our client went public, a complaint was filed under the aforementioned Act. Our complaint was dismissed since ‘there was no contract binding the two. A workplace harassment case didn’t make sense.’ What we fail to understand was the two have a history of working alongside. Does that not constitute a work environment? Once dismissed, Meesha took to social media.
AQ: Ali has always been clear on initiating legal proceedings since day one. A legal notice was sent on April 24. A Lahore court was then moved on June 23. We termed all allegations false. A notice was sent to Meesha in same regard. A public apology was demanded. We also demanded Meesha delete the defamatory post.
ET: Any movement?
AQ: As we speak, it’s just been little under a month. We have obtained an injunction against Meesha in favour of our client. Essentially, she has been refrained from making derogatory remarks against Ali till a verdict is handed down.
AP: Yes, Meesha has been asked to desist from making any degrading remarks. She has only said what is true. Meesha only went public to inspire others.
ET: It was reported that a notice sent by the Jhoom singer was never received by Meesha. Ali’s representatives claim otherwise. Please tell us more.
AQ: In laymen terms, it is a formal announcement. Once the case is filed, the other party is notified. In this
AP: Ali initially wanted a settlement. Meesha emphatically rejected any such possibility. The plaintiff then decided to take the legal route. We are yet to receive a notice. The court has also directed the plaintiff to send it again.
ET: The matter is sub judice. There have been two hearings. What transpired?
AQ: The first hearing of the case was on June 25, where the defamatory statement was presented before the judge. An injunction against the defendant was then granted till a verdict was delivered.
On the July 5 hearing the judge issued notices on receipt of TCS/registered post deliveries. The judge ordered notices to be affixed to Meesha’s property in case they were not delivered/accepted again. The next hearing will be held in August.
AP: A defendant is never asked to be physically present at hearings. They can be represented by counsel(s). Meesha is travelling. Her legal team represented her before court.
ET: What are your demands?
AP: Conviction and compensation.
AQ: We want the charges termed “false and frivolous”. Payment of damages to the tune of Rs1 billion has also been demanded.
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