ARY CEO appears before court after three years
ISLAMABAD: Finally! After issuance of two arrest warrants, scores of summons and directions from the court, ARY CEO Salman Iqbal here Thursday appeared before the court of additional district & session judge (ADSJ) three years after initiation of the legal proceedings where IMCL has filed a criminal complaint against the TV channel for leveling false, fabricated and baseless allegations.
Complaint under section 200 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) alleged commission of offences by the respondent under sections 500 & 501, which were related to punishment for defamation as the TV channel through its programmes had been leveling false allegations against IMCL Jang/Geo group.
Salman Iqbal, using delaying tactics either on one pretext or another, had been avoiding court proceedings for long creating a great deal of hindrance in the adjudication of the matter. Somehow, he appeared before the court on Thursday but again not complied with court orders as he was directed to produce passport, entry and exit immigration stamps as proofs that he had been abroad. His legal counsel said that they will produce air tickets as a proof and since Iqbal himself appeared before the court so rest in not necessary. ADSJ Syed Faizan Haider Gillani directed Salman Iqbal to submit surety bonds worth Rs30,000.
Legal counsel for Independent Media Corporation Pvt Ltd (IMCL) Amir Abdullah Abbasi vehemently argued before the court that proofs are necessary as they were demanded by the court and exemption from personal appearance for Salman Iqbal was sought on the pretext that he is abroad.
He further argued that this not an ordinary defamation case but it is murder of reputation as serious allegations were repeatedly leveled against IMCL and that too without any proof. Legal counsel for Salman Iqbal Faisal Chaudhry advocate argued before the court that he sought exemption for his client on the basis that he is travelling abroad and in this respect he would submit air tickets before the court.
IMCL counsel on the other hand said that air tickets are not sufficient and complete compliance of the court order is necessary where Salman Iqbal was directed to produce his passport and immigration stamps.
Salman Iqbal counsel then said that his client has completed with his legal obligation of appearing the court. And now he should be allowed to go back as he has security apprehensions. At this IMCL counsel said that may every accused could get such facilities. Salman Iqbal still to sign the surety bonds, IMCL counsel said. He further said that this case was filed in 2014 and since then Salman Iqbal appeared before the court quite now. While proceeding of the case a transcript from the ARY Lahore bureau chief Arif Hameed Bhatti’s discussion was read out in the court. Bhatti had alleged that Jang Group manipulates government, army and judiciary.
IMCL counsel said that a British court under such allegations pronounce a decision against ARY as they had no evidence against Geo TV. In Pakistan ARY as a policy trying to defame Jang/ Geo group. Legal counsel for Arif Hameed Bhatti said that this matter should have been reported to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra)’s council of complaints instead of this court. Bol television leveled similar allegations against IMCL but instead of filing application before the court they went to Pemra, the counsel further said. ADSJ court then directed the parties to submit written arguments whether dispute between the television channels should get settled at this court or at Pemra. The court then put of in this matter till July 12.
IMCL had filed the complaint under section 200 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) alleging commission of offences by the respondent ARY under sections 500 & 501 against Salman Iqbal, Mubasher Luqman, Sabir Shakir, Arif Hameed Bhatti, Aqeel Karim Dhedi and Naeem Hanif for leveling accusations in the ARY program Khara Sach dated December 21, 2013 and December 31, 2013.
IMCL in its complaint said that ARY in its different television programs to defame Jang/Geo group through a vicious and malignant campaign, labeled the complainant as “Ameerul Munafiqeen”, “Enemy of Country”, “Enemy of Religion”, “Black Mailer”, “Foreign Funded”, “against ideology of Pakistan”, “Traitor”.
The said TV channel also incited public to boycott Geo TV and Jang newspaper. When court asked ARY to prove the allegations, ARY Chief Executive Officer (CEO) started using delaying tactics and in order to avoid personal appearance before the court kept seeking exemptions either at the pretext of being sick or being out of the country.
After the complaint of IMCL ADSJ court then directed an ilaqa magistrate to conduct an inquiry into this matter to ascertain that whether this complaint had valid grounds.
An ilaqa magistrate in his report had said there exist sufficient grounds under which the accused Salman Iqbal and others could be preceded against for leveling false accusation against IMCL. Under the law, this case had to be decided within 90 days time. Due to delaying tactics of the respondents this case is pending for the last more than three years.