FIA, PEMRA heads summoned in journalists' harassment case

SC seeks report from IHC registrar on status of cases filed by journalists; also summons Islamabad police chief


Hasnaat Malik August 30, 2021
PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The Supreme Court (SC) summoned on Monday the heads of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Islamabad police and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) in a case pertaining to the harassment of journalists.

A three-member bench of the top court, led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, took up the suo motu case. The bench also summoned the attorney general and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) advocate general at the next hearing.

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The bench also sought a report from the Islamabad High Court (IHC) registrar regarding the status of pending cases of media persons. After issuing these directives, the top court adjourned the hearing of the case for two weeks.

It may be noted that the case was originally taken up by a division bench led by Justice Qazi Faez Isa. The bench on August 20, directly entertained the Press Association of Supreme Court (PAS) application against harassment of media persons. The division bench had also summoned several government functionaries on August 26 before it.

However, on August 23, a five-judge larger bench of the apex court, headed by Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, “held in abeyance” the two-member bench order.

The bench had said that the order deviated from the established practice of entertaining the suo motu notices.

The SC also held that the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) was the “sole authority by and through whom the suo motu jurisdiction can be, and is to be, invoked/assumed” under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution.

Earlier, at the onset of the hearing, one of the petitioner Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui requested the court that he wanted to withdraw his petition on account of happenings in SC last week. He questioned the SC larger bench order wherein the division bench order on his application was recalled.

Justice Ijaz said that the chief justice had invoked suo motu proceedings. “The Supreme Court is the guarantor of fundamental and constitutional rights,” Justice Ahsan told the petitioner, adding that whether the petitioner withdrew the petition or not, the court would see what steps were necessary to protect the fundamental rights.

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When the applicant, Siddiqui, was tried to question the larger bench order, Justice Munib Akhtar said that the larger bench was not under discussion in the case. Justice Ahsan added that the chief justice had taken suo motu notice; therefore, the court would conduct its own proceedings.

The judge stressed that the media was the voice and conscience of the nation, and to protect that voice, constitutional protection had been provided. He added that if freedom of the press was threatened or misused by any institution, the court would be the first to protect the journalists.

The bench then directed the journalists to submit their pleas to the Registrar's Office. The court also directed President Press Association of Supreme Court (PAS) Amjid Nazeer Bhatti to prepare a detailed account of the incidents, involving journalists so that the court could take appropriate action in this regard.

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