No, Meesha Shafi has not been found guilty of running a smear campaign against Ali Zafar
“The court will find her guilty, not the FIA”
Claim: The FIA has declared Meesha Shafi and eight others ‘guilty’ of running a smear campaign against Ali Zafar
Fact: The FIA does not have the jurisdiction to proclaim guilt, that is within the purview of the courts. The FIA is an investigative agency.
On December 16, multiple news organisations such as The News, SAMAA and Geo News published articles that claimed that Meesha Shafi has been “found guilty” of staging a smear campaign against singer Ali Zafar. Meesha, who filed a sexual harassment case against Ali Zafar in May 2018 was under investigation by the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) for posting defamatory content against the latter.
Soch Fact Check found the claims declaring Meesha Shafi guilty to be misleading. The FIA is an investigative body which is designated for investigating offences under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. In the rules governing the FIA’s investigation procedure, it is clearly stated that their role is to investigate complaints within sixty days of registration of a case and submit a report, called the interim chaalan.
In the Zafar-Shafi case, the FIA submitted a report to the court which laid out their investigation into the defamation complaint that Ali Zafar filed against Meesha Shafi and eight others under Section 20 (1) of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 and R/W 109-PPC. According to misleading news reports, the FIA declared the accused “guilty” of a smear campaign against Ali Zafar.
Soch Fact Check reached out to Ameer Nausherwan Adil, Advocate of the Sindh High Court, who stated conclusively that the FIA is not issuing a verdict. According to Adil, the FIA has merely submitted a chalaan (report) to the court stating that, as per its investigation, Meesha Shafi has carried out a vilification campaign against Ali Zafar.
The court will now carry out a trial during which both parties will be expected to submit evidence. Based on the evidence submitted during this trial, the court will then decide whether Meesha is, in fact, guilty of this smear campaign. “The court will find her guilty, not the FIA,” states Adil.
Lawyer Sara Malkani further elaborated that the FIA is the prosecuting authority under PECA, whose role is to investigate. If it finds that an individual has committed a violation of the law, it submits a chalaan requesting that the court proceed with a trial. The chalaan is from the FIA’s perspective, it states that the institution has enough evidence to prove their case against Meesha, Sara clarifies. They can’t charge her or ask the court to charge her. “In our legal system, the prosecuting authority doesn’t have the final say, it comes from the court,” says Sara.
Even if the chalaan states that Meesha is guilty, Malkani says, it only means that she is guilty from the FIA’s perspective. They still have to prove her guilt in a court of law. The case against her is a criminal case so, in our legal system, she is innocent until proven guilty.
Lawyer and Human Rights Activist Imaan Mazari asserts that this a clear case of misreporting. The FIA can only submit the findings of their investigation to the trial court, according to which they have recommended that a case be pursued against Meesha under Section 20 of PECA. The FIA can’t issue a verdict on Meesha’s guilt, she states, it can only investigate whether Meesha’s posts on Ali Zafar were defamatory.
While SAMAA has redacted their previous headline, an official correction is yet to be issued.
Summary: On December 16, multiple news organisations published articles that claimed the FIA has found Meesha Shafi, along with eight others, guilty of running a smear campaign against Ali Zafar. According to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2018 (PECA) rules and multiple lawyers, the FIA is an investigative agency that does not hold authority to proclaim guilt.