IHC asks Pemra to decide on Bol licences revocation in 15 days
ISLAMABAD: Granting Pakistan Broadcasters Association’s (PBA) petition, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to decide revocation of licences of Bol news and Bol Entertainment within 15 days.
The petitioner had filed the writ petition against the federal government through the Ministry of Information, Pemra, Labbaik, Axact Pakistan and Axact FZ LLC Dubai, seeking a direction against Pemra to initiate and complete process to revoke licence of Bol News and Bol Entertainment on the basis of Section 25 of Pemra Ordinance 2002 which states that no TV licence could be issued to a company that is directly or indirectly controlled and managed by a foreign national or foreign company and Labbaik being funded and controlled by a Dubai-based company is thus not eligible for holding any TV licence.
On 24th July 2015, Justice Aamir Farooq of the IHC heard the PBA’s petition.
Counsel of PBA Jam Asif Advocate took the court through various provisions of Pemra Ordinance, 2002 and also drew the attention of the court towards the record of Labbaik which shows that its total paid up capital is just Rs500,000 and it remained the same even after the induction of four new directors in the year 2013.
According to the tax returns filed by new directors for the year 2012, Shoaib Sheikh paid Rs18, Viqas paid Rs5,280 Mrs Ayesha Shoaib paid Rs1,836 and Mrs Sarwat Bashir submitted affidavit that she has no taxable income. This confirms that the newly inducted directors have no other source of income. Nor the newly inducted directors have injected any money in Labbaik.
After that the counsel showed the court ‘Dawn’ advertisement through which Axact that is almost wholly owned subsidiary of a foreign company, i.e. Axact FZLLC, announced hiring of journalists and other necessary employees with an exorbitant and unrealistic salary packages and other perks including giving brand new Mercedez Benz, personal chefs, gym trainer, swimming pool, scholarships for employees’ children etc.
It was then argued that with the nominal paid up capital of Rs500,000 only and no apparent source of income, Labbaik had heavily invested on infrastructure, interior and on purchase of machineries worth more than Rs100 crores, employing more than 3,000 personnel including top talents of media industry and regular payments of their salaries and all associated cost for running media enterprises and giving cars like Mercedes Benz to their employees, construction of a world class building having all facilities like swimming pools, gym, etc.
The counsel then threw light on the arrest of owners and directors of Labbaik on the fake degree scam which was exposed by New York Times and findings of the state agency FIA as contained in annexed interim challan. The court was then showed the judgment of the Sindh High Court whereby demand of Ministry of Interior that Labbaik to seek security clearance for its directors afresh, was upheld.
It was further submitted that despite the complaint of PBA to revoke the licences of Labbaik as it is being managed/controlled by a Dubai-based foreign company, namely Axact FZLLC, Pemra has till date not taken any action on the complaint of PBA and has failed to perform its statutory obligation.
After hearing all these arguments, the IHC proceeded to grant PBA’s whole petition as prayed and directed Pemra to take action on PBA complaint/representation for revocation of licences expeditiously within 15 days, also allowing PBA to appear before Pemra.