SC judge vows to remain neutral in controversial TV show case
ISLAMABAD: A judge of the Supreme Court vowed on Tuesday to hear dispassionately and independently the matter of an allegedly defamatory TV show aired by a private TV channel, even if the case involved a fellow judge.
“We will not be driven by emotions, even if the case involves a brother judge,” Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry observed. He was part of the bench specially constituted by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani to settle the controversy surrounding the airing of the show on ARY News, where anchorperson Mubasher Lucman levelled serious allegations of bias against Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and declared him unfit to hear a petition moved by Geo TV.
Justice Chaudhry also observed that the court would allow the other side to present their point of view, adding that the court would decide the matter without favouring any one side.
Court views clips from ARY show, asks for transcripts
The observations came as advocates Taufiq Asif and Sheikh Ehsanuddin urged the court to issue a restraining order against Khara Such, hosted by Lucman, alleging that he continued to level slanderous and defamatory allegations against Justice Khawaja, thereby defaming and disrespecting the judiciary as a whole.
On Tuesday the three-judge bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal viewed a number of video clips from the show in question. In the clips, Lucman raised a number of allegations regarding Justice Khawaja’s close relationship with Mir Shakeelur Rehman, the owner of Geo TV; as well as making references to a property deal involving the SC judge’s wife, in Lahore.
After viewing the clips, the court ordered the registrar’s office to submit complete transcripts of the programmes aired on May 21 and 22, and adjourned the proceedings until next Tuesday.
In a related development, a senior Supreme Court lawyer from Lahore has also moved a complaint with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), highlighting a malicious campaign being conducted against Justice Khawaja in the same talk show. Advocate Khawaja Asif Mahmood has requested Pemra to take prompt action against the channel.
The complaint maintains in the May 29 episode of Khara Such, broadcast on ARY News, it was alleged that Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja used his position to sell a two-kanal plot of land, which belonged to his wife, to the Punjab government for an amount greater than the market price in 2008. The plot, situated opposite Allama Iqbal International Airport, was acquired by the Punjab government in 2008 for the construction of the Lahore Ring Road. According to the complainant, Justice Khawaja’s wife never wanted to sell the land in the first place.
Sumaira Malik case: Meanwhile, a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali ordered senior counsel Hamid Khan to submit his objections, against the constitution of the bench hearing Sumaira Malik’s review petition, in writing.
On October 28, 2013, a three-judge bench headed by former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had imposed a lifetime ban on Ms Malik, restraining her from contesting elections for parliament after her Bachelor’s degree was declared fake.
Subsequently, Ms Malik filed a petition seeking to overturn last year’s verdict. She maintained that the Supreme Court’s previous order was based on conjecture and speculation.
On Tuesday, Hamid Khan said he would like to raise an objection against the bench since one member of the original bench (Justice Khawaja) was not part of the current bench.
Asma Jehangir, who is representing Sumaira Malik, said she would also like to submit a rejoinder to Khan’s objections and submitted that the judge in question was biased in this matter as he and Hamid Khan had formerly shared legal chambers at the Lahore-based firm, Cornelius, Lane and Mufti. Mr Khan protested, saying that Ms Jehangir “was going too far”.
Ms Jehangir also pointed out a number of Supreme Court judgments that held that a review petition could be heard by a bench even if one judge who had originally heard the case was available on the subsequent bench. In this case, she said, Justice Gulzar Ahmed was the judge who had been in both benches.
The court, however, observed that after receiving the objections and Ms Jehangir’s rejoinder, it would then refer the matter to the chief justice for a final decision.