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SC orders Pemra to file record of action taken against TV channels for maligning judiciary

By Our Staff Reporter 2016-07-22
KARACHI: The Supreme Court directed the chairman of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Thursday to file the record of proceedings initiated against private news channels for running a campaign to malign the superior judiciary and its judges.

A five-judge bench, headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim, expressed displeasure over the absence of the chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority and directed him as well as the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency to appear on next hearing with their statements as to what action had been initiated against the perpetrators of such a campaign on social media.

A lawyer submitted that the PTA chairman was occupied in the International Telecommunications Union Conferencehosted by Pakistan in Islamabad.

At the last hearing, the court had taken notice of the vilification campaign through social and electronic media against judges of the superior judiciary and directed the PTA and Pemra chairmen to turn up on Thursday.

The bench issued the directives during the hearing of a petition filed by the Sindh High Court Bar Association seeking recovery of the SHC Chief Justice`s son, who was kidnapped by masked men in Clifton on June 20.

At the outset, the judges were informed that Barrister Awais Ali Shah had safely been recovered on July 19 with the efforts of law enforcement agencies.

The judges observed that the petition to that extent had become infructuous, but it had also taken notice of the campaign against the judges of the superior judiciary for maligning them through different means.

Pemra chairman Absar Alam submitted that action had been taken against channelsin whose programmes contemptuous language had been used against the judges of the superior judiciary.

Replying to a court query, he said that the authority could impose a penalty of Rs10 million on defiant channels, but could not take any action against the individuals, anchors, etc.

Justice Hani observed that the institution of the judiciary had been given constitutional protection and, therefore, matters related to the judiciary or judges could not even be discussed in parliament and questioned as to how channels could be allowed to discuss the same in their programmes.

The bench directed Mr Alam to submit copies of proceedings initiated against those channels by July 28.

It must include show-cause notices issued to the channels concerned and response received from them by Pemra as well as the record of the personal hearings, if any, granted by Pemra or Council of Complaint tothose channels to submit their defence and penalties/conclusions arrived at by the regulator authority, it added.

The court directed the PTA chairman to appear on next date with an explanation regarding the action taken against the persons who were maligning judges of the superior judiciary on social media and other public forums and whether such persons were recommended for prosecution under the cybercrime law. A notice was also issued to the FIA DG to appear in court.

On the other hand, Khalid Javed and Barrister Salahuddin Ahmed, lawyers for petitioners, argued that the petition had not become infructuous on the recovery of Barrister Shah since it also sought the court`s direction to relevant quarters to devise a plan for improving security of courts` premises, judges, lawyers and their families and speedily address of threats faced by them.

The bench adjourned the hearing till July 28.