Rejecting the ‘fake’ news report, the apex court has made it clear that the Lahore High Court (LHC) Monday order does not even remotely directs the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to ban speeches of former premier Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz or anybody else.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, on Tuesday took suo motu notice of the ‘misreporting’ of the LHC’s order regarding ban of ‘anti-judiciary’ speeches by Sharif and others.
The bench summoned a copy of the LHC’s order to examine its legality, wherein Pemra was directed to stop all speeches/aspirations against the institution of judiciary and judges of the superior judiciary in the spirit of Articles 19 and 68 of the Constitution.
During the hearing, the bench expressed anger over misreporting of the LHC’s order. The CJP also read out the headlines of various newspapers.
A member of the bench, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, also asked the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Ashtar Ausaf Ali to find out who was source of fake news and who will investigate into the matter.
“You have to determine the source. It is classic case of manoeuvering” he said. Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan termed ‘fake news’ as attack on the judiciary. “This is totally pathetical,” he added.
The CJP told the AGP that the courts did not stop anyone from making ‘fair comments’. “Nawaz Sharif and his daughter can even give fair speeches before the bench,” he added.
Justice Nisar also expressed anger over the protest of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) female workers outside the SC premises against the apex court Friday decision to permanently disqualify Nawaz Sharif and other convicted for being not ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Ameen’ – truthful and trustworthy.
He also told the AGP that he had already told him that they do not need the government’s security. “The nation will protect its Qazis [judges]”, he adds.
Later, the court in its order noted that a false impression was intentionally sought to be created amongst the general public by such news reports as well as panel discussions that Pemra has been directed to stop broadcasting speeches of Sharif and Maryam.
“It was categorically stated that the learned high court had banned airing of anti-judiciary speeches by a large number of persons including Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Ms Maryam Safdar.
“A false impression was also sought to be created that the fundamental right to freedom of speech enjoyed by all citizens and guaranteed by the Constitution has been curtailed, restricted or diminished through the said order,” it said. The court pointed out that there is nothing in the LHC order which even remotely directs or obligates Pemra to ban Sharif and Maryam or anybody else.
“The media speculation, panel discussions and press reports appearing on various channels and media outlets and in various newspapers today are incorrect, baseless and unsubstantiated.
“The opinions, verbal or in writing have clearly and obviously been expressed without even reading the contents of the order of the high court,” said the order.
During the hearing, the bench asked the AGP as well as Pemra counsel Salman Akram Raja if the order in question in any manner imposes a ban, embargo or restriction on Sharif, Maryam or anybody else. They conceded that this is not the case and the contents of the order do not support any such conclusion.
“They also agreed and acknowledged without any reservation whatsoever that as guardians of the Constitution and custodians of fundamental rights the superior courts of the country are mandated and obligated to ensure that fundamental rights are protected and enforced with full force and vigor with all their manifestations and strictly in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the law.”
The order said the bench had also issued notices to Sharif and Maryam and directed the AGP to convey the same to the said persons to enable them to arrange their representation.
“None has appeared on their behalf. However, counsel appearing on behalf of other respondents and the AGP, after going through the order, agree that there is nothing in the order that can even remotely be interpreted to mean or imply that a ban has been imposed on the said persons or taking them off-air.
“All learned counsels unanimously agree that as the regulator for electronic media, it is the duty of Pemra to enforce the law as provided in Section 27 of the Ordinance, 2002 read with Section 2(j) of the Code of Conduct ibid and the order in question merely reiterates the said position,” said the order.
The bench, while expressing satisfaction over the LHC order, observed that the order does not in any way curb, restrict, curtail or diminish the fundamental right of freedom of speech as enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution.
It said it merely directs Pemra to enforce the law which it is obliged to do and decide the applications pending before it relating to hate speech against any and all organs of the state.