Move to stop law violations against judiciary
By: Ahmad Noorani
ISLAMABAD: A petition is being filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday to restrain the media from becoming a tool in the hands of a few well-placed persons who are known for spitting venom against the judiciary, in clear violation of the Constitution to safeguard their mega corruption and heinous crimes and criminal bosses.
The petitioner, Nadeem Ahmad, will file the petition through senior lawyer Barrister Akram Sheikh. He told The News said that under sections 449 and 500 of the Pakistan Penal Code even if a person makes false allegations or defames any citizen, he can be punished and sent to jail for two years. “How unfortunate is the fact that in our country corrupt people abuse and defame the judiciary openly and our media channels are used to give space to such elements,” Nadeem said.
He said not only the Constitution; the Pemra Ordinance was also being violated. The Pemra rules bind this regulatory body to check the illegal and unconstitutional contents aimed at ridiculing the institution of the judiciary or person of a judge.
The important paras of the petition are as follows:
That the petitioner believes that the honourable judges of the Supreme Court and high courts are not above the law and, and just like any other ordinary citizen of Pakistan, are fully accountable under the Article 5 of the Constitution.
That when Articles 5, 204 and 209, all three articles being part of original 1973 Constitution Bill that was proposed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (Shaheed) for adoption by the Constituent Assembly, are considered together, the following simple and unambiguous constitutional picture emerges:
a – No judge of honourable Supreme Court or high court is above the law or entitled to any kind of immunity from being accountable in accordance with law (Article 5);
b – Any person who feels aggrieved by any illegal act or misconduct of a judge can seek legal ouster of that judge by pursuing the procedure laid down in Article 209 of the Constitution, where country’s five senior-most judges are bound to give him a right of hearing and render their view on his complaint, based on which the president may remove that judge from office (Article 209); and
c – Abusing or throwing around allegations against any honourable judge through press conference and TV interviews is an offence (Article 204).
That the wisdom of the above constitutional scheme became quite obvious a few months ago when a prominent real estate developer, instead of engaging a lawyer and filing a proper reference against the Chief Justice of Pakistan, first indulged in malicious rumour campaign, then used live press conference to level scandalous and nasty allegations against the son of Chief Justice of Pakistan. He then quickly proceeded to involve the entire Supreme Court, alleging that the entire court was controlled by the son of Chief Justice of Pakistan and in the same breath complaining that despite paying so much money to the son of Chief Justice of Pakistan, the Supreme Court was not deciding his cases ‘in his favour’! As if this was not enough, he deliberately added to the drama by waving a copy of the Holy Quran at tens of millions of viewers all over the country.
The surprising thing was that the whole news media of Pakistan broadcast that nasty and totally pre-planned press conference live, despite the fact that it was totally in violation of Section 20 and there was absolutely nothing that Respondent No.2 Pemra did to stop live coverage of that malicious press conference or its repeat transmissions. After having caused so much anguish to so many people of Pakistan, within a few days, the said business tycoon, facing contempt charges, was offering unconditional apologies to the Supreme Court. On the other hand, as complainant who was waving copy of Holy Quran to demonstrate genuineness of his claims, he is avoiding to appear and record his statement before the Commission that the Hon’ble Supreme Court set up to record his complaint and to inquire into the veracity of his allegations against the son of Chief Justice of Pakistan and determine which provisions of law may have been violated and what action should be taken. If, in his view, the Chief Justice of Pakistan was guilty of misconduct then instead of following the straight and simple constitutional path of Article 209, why did he deliberately opt for the path of accountability through media?
That since last week, a new round of rumours has been unleashed that a new attack against Chief Justice of Pakistan through another live press conference will be launched and that this time the attack would be so nasty that it will leave the Chief Justice with no choice except to resign and go home. Certain national dailies too have now published inside stories of this imminent media attack to be launched through live press conference within a day or two (copies of newspaper reports have been attached herewith as Annexure ‘A’). Strangely, the national regulator of broadcast media, namely Pemra (Respondent No.2) is once again silent and is not taking any immediate action by issuing directions to all licenced news broadcasters to avoid showing any such live press conference as the same will be an illegal content under Section 20 of Pemra Ordinance 2002 and that if any broadcaster were to illegally show such press conference, Respondent No.2 Pemra will be compelled to immediately suspend the licence of such broadcaster.
That in the light of the above stated facts and circumstances the petitioner is seeking the kind indulgence of this Honourable Court on the following grounds:
A – While mechanism for holding superior judges accountable and for their removal from the office has been clearly laid down in the Constitution, suspending or forcibly removing or compelling the judges to resign through a coordinated and planned nasty media campaign is totally unconstitutional.
B – The Parliament, while adopting Section 20 of Pemra Ordinance 2002, itself declared any media content that involves insulting or maligning the judiciary as an illegal content and, as such, it is a serious violation of the terms of licence for the broadcasters to show any such content, making their broadcasting licence liable to be suspended or revoked by Respondent No.2 Pemra.
C – Through section 20 of Pemra Ordinance 2002, Parliament has made it illegal for licenced broadcasters to show any content that may be defamatory to any ordinary person in Pakistan. Respondent No.2 Pemra’s illegal omission means that it is treating the person of Chief Justice of Pakistan as less deserving of protection from defamation than even an ordinary person.
That it is on the basis of the above facts and grounds that the petitioner seeks to invoke the constitutional jurisdiction of this Honourable Court for the following relief in the interest of justice:
A – Direct Respondent No.2 to immediately issue a written direction to all national news broadcasters that they must not broadcast any interview or press conference that may contain any defamatory allegation against any member of the superior judiciary;
B – Direct Respondent No.2 Pemra to suspend the license of any national news broadcaster that shows any such interview or press conference in which nasty and defamatory allegations are levelled against any member of the superior judiciary;
C – Direct Respondent No.1 to restrain national local newspapers from publishing contents of any such press conference or interview that may contain any defamatory allegations against any member of superior judiciary.
D – Declare that all the Honourable Judges of Supreme Court and High Courts are subject to law under Article 5 of the Constitution and are fully accountable, albeit through the mode and mechanism that has been laid down in the Constitution of Pakistan and within the legal system of Pakistan, there is no room for judicial accountability through abusive live press conferences.
E – Any other consequential or better relief that this Honourable Court may deem appropriate may also be granted.