LONDON: Justice Saini of London’s High Court of Justice has issued a verdict favouring Nasir Butt at a preliminary meaning hearing of words used in a broadcast by a private Pakistani TV channel about him — the central character in the judge Arshad Malik video scandal.
The TV channel had broadcast allegations accusing Butt of threatening and trying to bribe the late accountability court judge who had convicted former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in the assets beyond means case.
Butt sued the TV channel for its broadcast on July 11, 2019, in which the channel aired allegations in a news show claiming that Nasir Janjua and Nasir Butt were “pressuring” judge Arshad Malik and had “threatened” and were “trying to bribe” him. At that time, the private TV channel was under a different management.
In the same broadcast, the channel had played Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s defence of Nasir Janjua, but analyst Adnan Adil referred to Abbasi’s explanations as “false statements” and then stated “now these conspiracies are being debunked” before proceeding to make further allegations against Butt: “The people of Pakistan should know about this conspiracy. Has our court system and state apparatus sold itself out? Can anyone sabotage our systems through conspiracies? The public should know what conspiracy took place. They should know about how these characters were involved. They should receive exemplary punishment for this.”
In their arguments before the court, TV channel’s lawyer Barrister Rashid Ahmed and Butt’s lawyer Barrister David Lemer both relied on Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman’s historic defamation case judgment against ARY Network Ltd in 2016 at the London High Court, which has become a benchmark for the determination of the meaning of defamatory in the context of Urdu television broadcasts in the UK.
Barrister Rashid Ahmed argued that if the text of the words complained of are considered by the overall context and impression given by the broadcast then it cannot be suggested the words complained of impute a charge of guilt, and no intention to defame Butt.
At the preliminary trial, Justice Saini ruled against the channel as he found that the meaning of the words complained of is that Butt had threatened and tried to bribe a judge. Justice Saini further found that the words complained of were a statement of fact and that the words defame Butt at common law. In effect the judge found a Chase level 1 meaning.
Justice Saini directed that both parties try to settle the case before the end of March 2022 or a date for the trial will be fixed where the broadcaster will have to prove with evidence that Butt was guilty of threatening and trying to bribe a judge. It is understood that the channel intends to continue to defend the claim. Butt has throughout vehemently denied all the allegations against him.
Originally published in