ARY CEO with travel documents summoned in court today -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

ARY CEO with travel documents summoned in court today

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: ARY CEO Salman Iqbal is to appear and produce his passport containing entry and exit immigration stamps, etc, in the court of Islamabad additional district & sessions judge (ADSJ) here today.

The court during the earlier hearing directed Salman Iqbal to produce travel documents on the next date of hearing on May 18 as proof regarding his application seeking exemption from personal appearance before the court on the pretext of being abroad in connection with business engagements.

The court passed this directive while hearing a criminal complaint filed by the Independent Media Corporation Pvt Ltd (IMCL) against ARY for leveling false, fabricated and baseless allegations.

ADSJ Syed Faizan Haider Gillani in his order said that no exemption from personal appearance could be granted to anyone except in unavoidable circumstances.

The 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”, “Enemey of Country”, “Enemy of Religion”, “Black Mailer”, “Foreign Funded”, “against ideology of Pakistan”,”Mir Sadiq” and “Mir Jafar”.

The said TV channel also incited the public to boycott Geo TV and Jang Group newspapers. When the 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.

The same allegations leveled by the same channel were challenged by the complainant in UK courts, where ARY admitted that it had no proofs to support its allegations. The channel was closed in UK after failing to prove false allegations.

The complainant has filed several cases in Pakistan against ARY for leveling false and fabricated allegations. On October 14, 2014 at the seventh hearing of the case, ADSJ court in Islamabad rejecting Salman Iqbal’s application for exemption had second time issued his bailable arrest warrants. While on November 17, 2014 the court once again issued his bailable arrest warrants third time that he challenged before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that issued stay orders. An IHC bench disposing of his two, one after another, appeals on December 8, 2015 directed Salman Iqbal to appear before the trial court. He then filed an application under section 203 with the IHC for dismissal of IMCL application. IHC bench while dismissing Iqbal’s criminal revision application observed: “A plain reading of section 203 CrPC clearly shows that it does not contemplate a partial dismissal of a complaint. It was open for the petitioner to have sought a discharge or acquittal, inter-alia, invoking the remedies provided under the CrPC i.e. sections 249-A or 265-K, as the case may be”.

The IHC bench further said: “The application filed under section 203 of CrPC was indeed not competent since the process had already been issued and the complaint could not have been dismissed since the five other accused are also arrayed therein”.

The IHC bench had said that the trial court issued the process in IMCL application after forming an opinion that there exist sufficient grounds for proceedings. Further Iqbal’s counsel failed to point out any misreading/non-reading or misapplication of the law in the trial court orders dated April 28, 2016.

In this case ADSJ court has issued four bailable and four non-bailable arrest warrants for ARY former TV anchor Mubasher Luqman. For non-appearance, ADSJ court had also issued bailable arrest warrants for Aqeel Karim Dhedi and Naeem Hanif who deposited surety bonds after appearing before the court. Bailable arrest warrants were issued against them for non-appearance despite summons. Aqeel Karim Dhedi in an ARY program dated December 21, 2013 had passed derogatory remarks against the owner of Jang/Geo group calling him “Mir Jafar” and enemy of the country. In total 34 hearings of this case were held and Dhedhi appeared in only 4 to 5 hearings and for the rest he sought exemptions on different pretexts.

IMCL had filed a complaint with the court of ADSJ under section 200 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) alleging commission of offences by the respondent ARY under sections 500 & 501 related to punishment for defamation as the ARY through its programs had been leveling false allegations against IMCL Jang/Geo group.

IMCL had filed the said complaint 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.

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 proceded against for leveling false accusations 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.

Realizing these delaying tactics, ADSJ court in its February 23, 2017 order had said that no exemption would be granted in future unless in unavoidable circumstances. But Salman Iqbal at the next two hearings also did not appear before the court and at the last hearing he again sought exemption on the pretext of business engagements outside the country.

ADSJ court then directed Iqbal to produce travel documents as proof on next date of hearing on May 18.

Legal counsel for IMCL Amir Abdullah Abbasi advocate arguing in this matter said that the respondent is using delaying tactics creating hindrance in the adjudication of this matter for the last three years. An IHC bench had directed Iqbal to appear before the trial court that he disobeyed, the IMCL counsel further said.

It should be noted that the channel has been consistently following the policy of “tell lies, defame others and when court summons, run away”.

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