December 23rd, 2020
By Rehan Piracha
Despite a gagging order and a troubling cybercrime case, artiste Meesha Shafi continues to wage her court battle against fellow singer Ali Zafar over harassment.
As if the legal challenges were not enough, Meesha has had to counter a targeted campaign on social media, primarily to discredit her harassment claims, say women rights activists.
Pointing out the inadequacies of the anti-harassment laws in the country, activists argue that the criminal defamation case against Meesha Shafi and her witnesses have given confidence to others on how easy it is to intimidate and threaten complainants and their witnesses, adding that the Meesha Shafi harassment case will deter women in future from naming their harassers. Recently, Meesha’s lawyers had said that the contents of an incomplete FIA investigation report is being used to launch a smear campaign against the singer.
Court Battle: Meesha Shafi Vs Ali Zafar
To have as a reminder, given below is a list of the cases filed by Meesha Shafi and Ali Zafar both in the courts
The female singer has filed a harassment case and a damages suit in the courts. The harassment complaint is pending before the Supreme Court after rejection on technical grounds on various appellate forums.
It has been over three years, since 2018, when Meesha brought claims of harassment against Ali Zafar. She filed a complaint of sexual harassment before the Punjab Ombudsperson for Protection Against Harassment Of Women At the Workplace on April 30, 2018. The ombudsperson dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction. In the opinion of the ombudsperson, Meesha Shafi was not deemed an employee under the Protection Against Harassment Of Women At The Workplace Act, 2010.
The singer appealed the decision before the Punjab Governor. The governor upheld the ombudsperson’s order on November 11, 2018. Meesha Shafi moved the Lahore High Court against the governor’s upholding of the ombudsperson order. However, the high court dismissed Shafi’s appeal on 11th October, 2019. Finally, the appeal has reached the Supreme Court where it is pending since November 30, 2019.
Meesha Shafi filed a Rs2 billion damages suit in a Lahore sessions court against Ali Zafar for making false allegations against her in the media in September 2019. Ali Zafar’s lawyer applied for a stay on proceedings till the adjudication of the damages suit filed by Ali Zafar. The court issued a stay order in the case on 13 February, 2020. However, Meesha Shafi challenged the stay order in the Lahore High Court on 15 May, 2020.
The actor and singer has filed a damages suit as well as a criminal defamation case under cybercrime law against Meesha Shafi to counter the harassment claims.
Ali Zafar filed suit for damages of Rs 1 billion against Meesha Shafi over her tweets accusing him of sexual harassment in the district court on 23rd June, 2018. The proceedings in the case are continuing with witnesses being heard in the court.
Ali Zafar filed an application before the additional and sessions judge in Lahore for a gag order against Meesha Shafi. The court ordered Meesha Shafi against making statements against Ali Zafar on 24th January, 2019. Meesha Shafi’s legal team challenged the gag order in the Lahore High Court.
Ali Zafar filed a complaint against Meesha Shafi before the FIA Cyber Crime Wing, alleging that she had launched a vilification campaign on social media. Meesha Shafi filed an application to stay proceedings in the cybercrime case but the additional sessions judge dismissed the application. The FIA lodged a first information report against Meesha Shafi and eight others over charges of launching a smear campaign against Ali Zafar. The federal agency later submitted an interim challan in the court against Meesha Shafi and seven others.