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PM gets another chance for response to defamation suit

PESHAWAR: A local court on Saturday gave another chance to Prime Minister Imran Khan to respond to a defamation suit filed against him by former MPA Fauzia Bibi over an allegation of horse-trading in the 2018 Senate elections.

As the counsel for Mr Imran, including lead lawyer Babar Awan, didn’t turn up, additional district and sessions judge Abdul Majid adjourned the hearing until Feb 29 asking the defendant (Mr Imran) to file reply to the lawsuit by then.

The former MPA, who was elected on reserved seats for women on a PTI ticket, has filed the suit for recovery of Rs500 million damages claiming Mr Imran has defamed her by levelling ‘baseless’ allegations of selling vote in the Senate elections.

Ghufranullah Shah, lawyer for the plaintiff (Ms Fauzia), said the defendant had been using delaying tactics in responding to the lawsuit despite repeated court orders.

Ex-lawmaker seeks Rs500m damages over horse-trading allegation

He said under Order VIII Rule 10 of Code of Civil Procedure when any party from whom a written statement was sought failed to present the same within the stipulated time, the court could announce the judgment against him or issue an order it deemed fit regarding the lawsuit.

The lawyer requested the court to decide the defamation suit in the absence of the written reply by the defendant.

The court observed that another chance would be given to the defendant to submit written reply to the lawsuit.

On Dec 14, the court had rejected an application of Mr Imran for the dismissal of the defamation suit claiming it’s not maintainable.

The defendant had said the news conference referred by the plaintiff (Ms Fauzia) was made by him over a report submitted by the disciplinary committee in good faith.

The application had remained pending for many months. The court had reserved order on it on June 15, 2019, after the lawyers for both parties completed arguments.

The dismissal order was challenged through a petition on behalf of Mr Imran in the Peshawar High Court, which is still pending decision.

Earlier, another application was filed on behalf of Mr Imran under Order VII Rule 10 CPC requesting the court to return the defamation suit as the news conference in question was addressed in Islamabad, which was out of the jurisdiction of the court.

However, that application was dismissed on Jan 30, 2019.

This defamation suit was filed in June 2018 under the Defamation Ordinance 2002.

The only defendant in the lawsuit was PTI chief Imran Khan, who later became the prime minister.

Plaintiff Ms Fauzia has claimed that during the Mar 3, 2018, Senate polls, she had followed the the party’s directions to vote for its candidates.

She claimed that after the Senate polls, the defendant began uttering and spreading maliciously false, baseless and unfounded statements and representation against her.

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