LONDON: The ‘meaning hearing’ in Shehbaz Sharif vs the Associated Newspaper Limited (publishers of Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday) is set to go ahead after two cancellations and the Queen’s Bench Division of the London High Court has decided to join Shehbaz Sharif’s case with his son-in-law Imran Ali Yousaf over the similar nature of their defamation claim.
However, after the issue of defamation meaning is settled, Shehbaz Sharif and Imran Ali Yousaf’s lawyers will run their cases separately, lawyers and sources from three sides have confirmed to The News and Geo News.
For the meaning hearing, Shehbaz Sharif will be represented by lawyers at Carter Ruck and Imran Ali Yousaf will be represented by his own counsel whereas Andrew Caldecott and David Glen QC will represent ANL.
The latest paperwork available with this reporter shows that the Mail lawyers have so far sought two extensions to file their defence. According to court papers, Master Gidden ordered the extension of the deadline to file defence on 23rd October 2020 and gave a separate extension on 9th of November 2020 extending time to file a defence.
Justice Nickline on 20th of October 2020 joined both the cases for the meaning trial. The court papers also show that Imran Ali Yousaf amended his claim once whereas Shehbaz Sharif has made no amendments to his claim. Imran Ali Yousaf’s claim was issued on 13 July 2020 and Shehbaz Sharif issued the claim at the London High Court on 29 January 2020.
A legal source said that the Mail’s strategy is to first see what the court says about the meaning hearing and accordingly the paper will seek advice from lawyers to submit the defence.
The meaning hearing was set to take place on Tuesday 20th of October and then on 9 November but postponed on both occasions due to pressure on the court schedules and due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
All sides are confident.
Sources at the Mail newspapers have shared their lawyers will argue that the words, meanings and insinuations of David Rose’s article were factual, harmless, in the public interest and not defamatory.
The meaning hearing in defamation cases takes place when the parties dispute over the meaning of the words and thus it’s left to the court to determine the meaning of the words, as a preliminary issue – i.e. before going to the effort of preparing for a full trial.
According to legal experts, a trial of meaning as a preliminary issue prevents a defendant from wasting time and money by preparing a defence based on an interpretation of meaning which could change later in the proceedings and it also prevents the claimant from pursuing a case which may not turn out to be defamatory enough at the later stage and therefore weakening the case before the trial judge.
The paper had alleged that Shehbaz Sharif was involved in corrupting the funds given to Pakistan by the British taxpayers.
The report said the DFID poured more than £500 million of the UK taxpayers’ money into Punjab in the form of aid during Shehbaz’s tenure as chief minister.
The PML-N president has said that he and his family couldn’t have taken any money from the earthquake fund because the quake was in 2005 – before he became Punjab’s Chief Minister. Daily Mail will argue that the ERRA fund existed until 2012. Imran Ali Yousaf has argued that he was not involved in corruption.