To sue, or not to sue? Iftikhar Chaudhry answers this question
Update on 24 July: Iftikhar sends defamation notice to Imran
Islamabad: Former Chief Justice Supreme Court, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has sent defamation notice of Rs 20 billion to PTI chief Imran Khan for leveling allegations against him.
Talking to media, lawyers representing Ex-CJ said the defamation notice being served to Imran Khan, seeking to apologize within 15 days and withdraw his statement against Iftikhar Chaudhry. PTI chief had accused the former chief justice of poll rigging in the 2013 general elections.
Our earlier analysis:
Guest column By Barrister Ameer Abbas Khan
In one way or the other, there is always a debate going on that our judicial system is not so strong; that there is no rule of law; that there is no true democracy; and so on.
There could be so many reasons for such a dismal state of our judicial and political systems; and one of them could be a failure on our parts to make people accountable for their actions.
No doubt, the lengthy and costly legal battle is a major deterrence to pursuing a course of redressing issues through courts. But one thing is for sure that until and unless we start questioning people and make them answerable before courts nothing is going to change either in judicial or political arena; no matter how much energy we may put into these debates.
In my other articles, I have stressed upon people like Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri to apply their forces in bringing change through legal frameworks and utilise their energies in identifying the mistakes and blunders of the government and make them accountable through courts of law.
Challenging government in such a manner would allow people to educate themselves about the issues affecting their lives and would also enable them to be prepared and bring change through ballot box.
Instead of challenging ex-Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in courts for his role in the 2013 election alleged rigging, Imran Khan has apparently declared him guilty without following due process and has not even bothered to present any evidence before courts. For my analysis on PTI’s allegations of rigging, please see: Will PTI’s threats of August march, PA dissolution help democracy?
Let us pause here and think for a moment the repercussions for Iftikhar Chaudhry as a result of Imran Khan’s allegations against him on national television and in large public gatherings. And, in particular, Imran Khan believes so strongly about these allegations that he has called for a ‘Tsunami March’.
In light of the stature of Iftikhar Chaudhry and a large fan following of Imran Khan, one of the consequences for Iftikhar Chaudhry could be impairment to his reputation, goodwill and honesty.
The law does provide a mechanism by which Iftikhar Chaudhry can sue Imran Khan for making such serious allegations. And it appears from news today that Iftikhar Chaudhry has decided to adopt legal course against Imran Khan.
The relevant law dealing with such type of cases is Defamation Ordinance 2002 according to which Iftikhar Chaudhry would first have to give 14 days notice in writing of his intention to bring an action specifying the defamatory matter complained of.
Should this matter end up going to court, the crux of the matter would be whether or not Imran Khan made a false statement about Iftikhar Chaudhry’s involvement in the alleged election rigging that injured the reputation of Iftikhar Chaudhry and tends to lower him in the estimation of others or tends to reduce him to ridicule, unjust criticism, dislike contempt or hatred.
Since Imran Khan has made such a strong statement about Iftikhar Chaudhry’s involvement in election rigging, it would be difficult for him to rely on the defences prescribed in the Ordinance that the matter commented on was fair and in the public interest and was an expression of opinion and not an assertion of fact and was published in good faith; or that the statement was based on truth and was made for public good.
In the end, it would be a matter for court to decide if Imran Khan is guilty of defamation but the point to note is that until and unless people are going to pose confidence in the judicial system and follow due procedures they are not going to find answers to their problems. Like Iftikhar Chaudhry, who if he doesn’t decide to sue Imran Khan then there is nothing that would stop Imran Khan to make allegations in such a manner that would would affect his image adversely.
In light of Iftikhar Chaudhry’s initiative to sue Imran Khan, it may very well be that Geo TV and PMLN may also decide to sue Imran Khan for defamation. This assessment is made on the basis that apparently without any substantive evidence Imran Khan has declared them guilty of alleged systematic rigging.
It could also be point of interest that Imran Khan is not new to the case of defamation as Ian Botham brought one against him back in 1990s for labeling him a ball-tamperer and a racist. Imran Khan had won that case.
An Abdalian and Aitchisonian, Barrister Ameer Abbas Ali Khan, is a Solicitor-Advocate (UK), Advocate High Court. He has LLB (Hons) UK, LLM (LSE), Bar-at-Law from Lincoln Inn, and lives in London. His father has been an MP in Pakistan over several decades.