Pemra ordered to wait for new chairman to decide, IHC told
ISLAMABAD: Federal Secretary of Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage has informed Islamabad High Court (IHC) through a signed statement on Nov 25th that it directed Acting Chairman PEMRA on Oct 29th and Nov 9th 2015 to withhold DTH Licensing process till the permanent chairman PEMRA takes charge.
The ministry stated so in response to a petition challenging the eligibility of an Acting Chairman to conduct the 15 year DTH Licence Auction process and declare the continued processing of auction of DTH Licenses by Acting Chairman as without lawful authority .The DAG submitted the reply of Ministry of Information in the case hearing on Thursday. The learned judge Mr Justice Amir Farooq asked PEMRA lawyer about fixing the hearing for next day ie Friday and on PEMRA lawyer request fixed the hearing for Dec 4th. The auction of DTH licenses is scheduled for Dec 7th.
The Ministry in its reply to IHC states that since the new Chairman has been notified on Nov 11, he should decide the DTH Licenses after taking charge. The Ministry of Information stated that DTH is very important to Pakistan broadcast industry and it should not be concluded in haste to save it from future controversies and legal complication. The Ministry added that role of Acting Chairman is restricted to administer and manage affairs of the organization on day to day basis and leave matters of policy to permanent chairman.
In the Annexure, the ministry has attached letter dated Oct 29th 2015 which asked Acting Chairman to withhold processing of DTH Licenses till new Chairman PEMRA takes charge . Another letter dated Nov 9th, 2015 is attached in the response to IHC which asks PEMRA to provide compliance report on the subject as directed in earlier letters. The Ministry has also attached a letter dated Nov 10 2015 about its jurisdiction vis a vis PEMRA by referring to relevant provisions of Rules of Business 1973. This was done after PEMRA did not comply with Ministry’s earlier two letters on subject and when PEMRA challenged the jurisdiction of ministry of information and broadcasting over PEMRA.
The Ministry of Information also agreed with the petitioner’s reproduction of decision and observations of Supreme Court of Pakistan in PLD 2013 SC 244 which state that acting chairman can attend to only day to day matters which are necessary to run affairs of PEMRA and an Acting Chairman is not authorized to make policy decisions having effect on the policies of future of PEMRA because decisions having far reaching effects should only be taken by a permanent chairman.
The said judgment adds that the Content Regulation 2013 notified on 25.9.2012 could not be construed as Regulation since Pemra did not have a Chairman and was not lawful in existence. The said judgment added that Pemra Ordinance does not provide for an acting chairman Pemra. The judgment adds that the position of Chairman Pemra has to be filled by a person who fulfils the exceptional and stringent requirements In Pemra Ordinance and not by a casual appointee.
It is pertinent to mention here that Pemra management under Acting Chairman continues to process the auction despite the directions from ministry of information to contrary. This is despite the fact that under section 5 of the Pemra Ordinance , Federal Government has the powers to issue directives to the Pemra on matters of policy which are binding in nature. Section 5 further adds that if a question arises if question arises whether any matter is a matter of policy or not, the decision of the federal government will be final.