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Sexual harassment, SC admits Meesha Shafi’s plea against LHC decision

The Supreme Court accepted for preliminary hearing singer Meesha Shafi’s petition

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday accepted for preliminary hearing singer Meesha Shafi’s petition filed against the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) order in the sexual harassment case against fellow singer Ali Zafar.

A three judge bench of the apex court, led by Justice Mushir Alam, issued notices to respondents Ali Zafar and Advocate General Punjab.

The singer had initially filed a complaint with the provincial ombudsperson in 2018, accusing Zafar of harassment.
The plea was subsequently rejected on technical grounds, stating that as Shafi and Zafar “did not have an employer-employee relationship”, the case could not be heard (in that forum). The complaint had been filed under the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010.

Shafi had then appealed against the decision before the Punjab governor, whom her legal team considered the competent authority to review any decisions made by the ombudsperson.

However, the Punjab governor also upheld the ombudsperson’s decision in July 2018, dismissing her request on technical grounds. Shafi subsequently approached the LHC to challenge the governor’s decision, where the LHC also endorsed the ombudsperson’s decision.

During today’s proceedings, Shafi’s counsel told the court that, “The [Lahore] High Court ruled that Meesha Shafi was not an employee.”
“Students at educational institutions are also harassed, and they are not employed by the educational institutions. Is harassment not to be prosecuted?” he argued.

The counsel further maintained that the LHC and the provincial ombudsmen did not properly review the law.
After hearing the arguments, the apex court remarked that the points raised by the petitioner must be reviewed, and clubbed the case with the suo motu notice taken to define sexual harassment, also pending in the court.
The hearing was adjourned for an indefinite period.

On January 10, taking to Twitter, Shafi wrote, “Tomorrow, the Supreme Court of Pakistan hears my appeal on whether I, a ‘self-employed person’ have a right, as per the law, to be heard after being harassed and therefore expect justice on merit as an equal citizen.”

She went on to add, “If ruled in my favour, this will be a landmark judgment in the history of Pakistan, determining those that are self-employed, as having the same rights to complain and seek justice as any other.”

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