CHITRAL: Additional District Judge Lower Chitral Mr Muhammad Qasim has observed that the report published in ChitralToday about sacked AKES Chitral assistant general manager Zohran Shah in the year 2014 was “true and published in good faith and public interest”.
The plaintiff, Zohran Shah, pursued the defamation case against the online newspaper for over seven years and lost it when the additional district judge dismissed it on Aug 26, 2021.
In his 10-page judgement released on Sept 4, 2021, on the defamation case filed against Zar Alam Khan, the editor, and Zulfiqar Ahmad, reporter of ChitralToday, the judge wrote: “As sequel to my detailed discussion and findings, the plaintiff [Zohran Shah] failed to establish his claim through reliable and cogent evidence. Resultantly, the defamation suit in hand is not proved which is hereby dismissed.”
The judgment observed: “The record transpires that publication of the report by defendants against the plaintiff is an admitted fact from the pleadings as well as evidence of the parties. The plaintiff and defendants are not known to each other prior to the impugned publication. The plaintiff in his cross-examination has categorically admitted that he does not know the defendants previously. Thus there is no ill will or motive behind publication of the news in the website for some personal grudges. It is evident from the record that a protest has taken place at a premises in Upper Chitral.
“The public raised certain slogans and, thereafter, the defendants have released the news on their website. It is established from record that a protest has undeniably taken place. So, the events reported are true.
“It appears from the records that the plaintiff has introduced certain new facts during the course of proceedings. The plaintiff has taken a subsequent plea that he has not been removed rather he has resigned from his post. In this regard, he has placed on file a document dated 25.09.2009. The said document is regarding his resignation from his services. Though the court has declined the introduction of the document vide its order dated 11.12.2020, however, the said document, Ex.PW-1/12 dated 25 September 2009 regarding his resignation is in direct conflict with his earlier stance at Para No-01 of his plaint. The plaint reveals that the plaintiff has served from January 1995 to December 2009, Similarly, this fact has further been admitted by the plaintiff in his cross-examination.
“The plaintiff has annexed another document dated 29.10.2009, wherein the plaintiff has admitted his removal from service. A news about his termination had also been published in on October 27, 2009, in a report. The document of service termination dated 29.09.2009 is placed on file which clearly shows and refers to the observation in the inquiry report dated 27.09.2009 coupled with a show-cause notice of misuse of institutional property to the extent of various unauthorized withdrawal for staff and personal use,” the judgment stated.
“Above all, the plaintiff has revealed that he had also challenged his termination notification vide a writ petition [in Peshawar High Court] whereas he could not prove that he had wrongly been charged and terminated on the grounds of misuse, irregularities and corruption charges as plaintiff made withdrawal of the said writ petition.
“It is concluded that the publication of (reporting/slogans) are found to be true. They are made in good faith in the public interest and no ill-will or personal grudges of the defendants toward the plaintiff are proved. The plaintiff [Zohran Shah] failed to establish his claim through reliable and cogent evidence. Resultantly, the defamation suit is not proved which is hereby dismissed.”
History of case
Zohran Shah filed the defamation case against ChitralToday on June 23, 2014. He admitted that ChitralToday news website is accessed globally. He claimed that the defendants, the chief editor and reporter of ChitralToday, on March 27, 2014, “falsely reported a baseless news with malice that the plaintiff was removed from services after being found in massive corruption and irregularities. The words used by defendants are false and aimed to damage the good reputation and popularity of plaintiff and exposed him to hatred and contempt in the eyes of the general public.”
Hence, the plaintiff brought the suit to the tune of Rs10 million as damages.
The case was filed by the sacked AKES Chitral assistant general manager after a report was published in this newspaper about a public protest held in Mastuj on March 27, 2014, against the closure of two community schools in the area. In that protest, the participants had stated that Zohran Shah was sacked for corruption in 2009 but he was still interfering in the affairs of the organization and was allegedly responsible for the closure of the schools.
On the other hand, the newspaper presented in the court documents showing the plaintiff had been sacked by the AKES-Pakistan head office in Karachi for the misuse of the organization’s resources on Sept 29, 2009.
The documents also showed that Zohran Shah had later filed a case in Peshawar High Court’s Mingora bench (Darul Qaza), seeking reinstatement on the post which was dismissed in 2012.
The defence lawyer, Afzal Nageen, earlier maintained that the newspaper report had been published in public interest and that after the report the two schools were restored in Khuz village and Laspur.