Answer Pemra first, then go to HC, SC tells private channel
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the prohibitory order of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), banning aprivate TV channel programme hosted by Amir Liaquat Hussain.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Ameer Hani Muslim and comprising Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel heard the appeal filed by chairman Pemra against the stay order granted by the Sindh High Court (SHC) on January 28 against the decision of the Authority to discontinue the programme.
The court after allowing the appeal of chairman Pemra directed the channel to approach the SHC against the closure of the programme.
The court directed the channel to submit reply to the show cause notice issued by Pemra and if the Authority passes any adverse order then it may approach the learned high court for remedy.
The court also dismissed all the stay orders granted by the SHC in appeals filed by the respondent and restored the show cause notices issued by Pemra. The court observed that the channel had no justification of filing an appeal in the SHC against the show cause notice issued by Pemra on January 26, 2017.
“Where is written that you can apply for stay in the learned high court against the show cause notice issued by the Authority,” Justice Ameer Hani Muslim asked the counsel for the channel. “You should first submit a reply before the Authority in its show cause notice and if there is any adverse order, you may then file an appeal,” Justice Ameer Hani said.
Shahab Sarkai, counsel for the channel, admitted his client’s fault by not only filing CMAs in the petition and getting stay orders from the SHC but also issuing contempt notices to chairman Pemra through the high court.
The anchor made hue and cry saying that he will file a reply to the regulator’s show cause notice but stressed that the court should direct Pemra to decide its plea within a week, adding that he fears that the issue will be lingered on for a year. “I would not be able to speak for a year and it will be a violation of Article 19 of the Constitution,” the anchor said. The court asked him to file his reply and if he was not satisfied from the regulator’s decision, he can approach the high court.
Pemra had issued show cause notice to the channel for defying its order to discontinue the programme and to keep the anchor off the air. The regulator, through an order issued on January 27 had taken exception to the programme over its “controversial and hate-based contents” and barred the anchor from appearing on any TV screen. But the channel defied Pemra’s directives in its night transmission, giving the host an opportunity to defend himself.
On Wednesday, during the course of hearing, the court asked the counsel for Pemra is there any provision under which the Authority issues direct show cause notice to anyone.
Counsels for Pemra replied that under Section 27 of Pemra Ordinance 2002, the chairman is empowered to prohibit any broadcast media from broadcasting or re-broadcasting or distributing any programme or advertisement which is against the Ideology of Pakistan or likely to create any hatred among the people or is prejudicial to maintenance of law and order and or likely to disturb the public peace and tranquillity or endangers national security or is pornographic, obscene or vulgar etc. they further submitted that the regulator had received over 100 applications about the hate-based contents by the anchor’s programme for which Pemra had served a show cause notice, adding that the channel violated the order passed by the regulator.
During the hearing, Jam Asif Mahmood, Saima Hashmi and Fasial Iqbal represented Pakistan Broadcasters Association, while Shahab Sarkai represented the channel. Shahab said the regulator issued show cause notice on malafide intention. The court observed that the respondent filed a contempt petition in SHC in order to pressurise the regulator.