LAHORE: A full bench of the Lahore High Court has ordered the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to stop broadcasting speeches against the judiciary by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders.
The bench on Monday also directed PEMRA to decide within 15 days all complaints against broadcasting such anti-judiciary speeches.
The bench, comprising Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Atir Mahmood and Justice Chaudhary Muhammad Masood Jahangir, announced the verdict after hearing arguments of lawyers from both sides.
Advocate Salman Akram Raja, who represented PEMRA, stated that the authority had taken appropriate steps while rejecting some complaints on technical grounds.
In response, Justice Naqvi asked, “Prima facie, you have allowed the airing of anti-judiciary speeches?”
Raja responded by saying that it was not like that.
Advocate Azhar Siddique appeared on behalf of the petitioners and argued that contemptuous speeches by the former prime minister and other leaders of the PML-N were still being broadcast on TV channels. He pointed out that PEMRA had failed to perform its duty to ensure that all contemptuous speeches were barred from being broadcast.
After hearing arguments from both sides, the bench reserved the verdict for a while and then assembled again and announced it.
The bench directed PEMRA to ensure that no television channel broadcast such contemptuous speeches. It also directed the regulatory authority for strictly monitoring all television channels in this regard.
The bench, however, dismissed the petition filed by Nawaz Sharif’s counsel AK Dogar, which challenged the bench’s constitution.
Munir Ahmad, Amna Malik and a number of other citizens had moved the court against contemptuous speeches made by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and other PML-N leaders.
Interestingly, this is the fourth full bench which decided the case. Previously, three benches were dissolved for various reasons.
In the previous proceedings, AK Dogar appeared before the bench and objected to the inclusion of Justice Atir Mahmood in the bench, contending that he had served as general secretary of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf’s lawyer forum in the past. Justice Naqvi took the objection seriously and observed that after elevation, a judge had no political connection.
Justice Naqvi barred AK Dogar from raising unnecessary matters and asked him to present legal arguments.
The petitioners had also alleged that PEMRA was not fulfilling its obligations and contemptuous remarks against judges of superior courts and the judiciary were being broadcast on TVs.
They said that PEMRA was intentionally allowing the broadcast of such material on TV channels. Such act amounted to contempt of courts and deserved strict action, they pleaded.
PEMRA, the petitioners said, had failed to act as an independent regulator; instead, they contended, it had been rendered into a subordinate body of the government. They argued that PEMRA officials needed to realise that they were not on PML-N’s payroll and had to protect citizens of Pakistan and its institutions in every regard.
They requested the court to order PEMRA to bar all media houses from airing anything against the country’s laws or which may be offensive to state institutions.