LAHORE - Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s announcement that he would file a damages suit of Rs 26.5 billion against Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan is an unprecedented move in terms of amount and may be nothing more than a political stunt, senior lawyers said yesterday.

They say legally a person may claim any amount of money in defamation suits. Sharif has claimed a huge amount. Perhaps, he has suffered such a big loss due to the allegations of Imran Khan.

The Punjab chief minister, in his press conference on Wednesday, rejected the allegations of corruption against him and others levelled by Imran Khan and announced he would file a defamation suit of Rs 26.54 billion against him. He also announced he would pursue his suit on daily basis.

In the past, the lawyers say, such a huge amount was not claimed by any political leader against any rival leader. “A person must file a damnation suit if he feels that his personality has been damaged through false allegations,” says AK Dogar, a senior lawyer. He says, “I wonder why people don’t file defamation suits in our society when they are defamed publicly by false allegations.”

Commenting on the announcement of Shehbaz Sharif, AK Dogar said it is the right of the Punjab CM to file a suit for damages, but he has forgotten to announce initiation of criminal proceedings against Khan.

“Under Section 500 of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860, criminal proceedings can also be initiated against Khan,” says AK Dogar.

He says no one should defame others as it is both morally and legally a serious offence and the perpetrator must be punished.

Abid Hassan Minto, another senior lawyer, says it is not surprising as a person may file a defamation suit against others for damaging him publicly. “This is a big amount, no doubt, but it happens,” says Minto, adding there is no legal bar on any one regarding the amount of money claimed in defamation suits. There is a legal procedure and the court will determine how much loss a complainant has suffered, he adds.

LHCBA President Rana Zia Abdur Rehman says it is merely a political stunt and nothing is going to happen seriously. “Political leaders often make such claims on TVs and at public gatherings, so it is nothing more than a political stunt,” says the LHCBA president. He says: “Defamation laws protect the reputations of individuals and other entities such as businesses from untrue and damaging statements. A plaintiff’s loss of reputation is not enough by itself. He must show that the harm was caused by the defamation,” Zia Abdur Rehman asserts.

He opines the announced amount to be claimed by Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif must have been in proportion to the damages caused by the defamation. “Huge amounts of money are claimed in such suits, but people must claim damages according to the loss to their reputation. Shehbaz Sharif has announced to demand a huge amount, but it does not mean he will get the same as the court will determine what loss he has suffered,” he avers.

Azhar Siddique says he does not know any person claiming such a huge amount. “Yes, it is big, but not illegal,” he adds.