SHC suspends PBA’s decision against Geo
KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday suspended the Pakistan Broadcasters Association’s decision of suspending the Geo TV Network’s membership till further orders. The interim injunction came on the lawsuit of Geo TV Network and others that assailed the decision of Pakistan Broadcasters Association’s meeting through a press release in which it suspended the membership of Geo TV Network in view of the statement of Defence Minister Khawaja Asif regarding the charges of treason against Geo.
The plaintiff’s counsel, Khawaja Shamsul Islam, submitted that the impugned action was violative of articles 3, 4, 9, 10, 10-A, 14, 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25 of the Constitution.
He submitted that an emergency meeting of the PBA was held in Karachi on June 13, which took up the issue in view of the statement of defence minister regarding the charges of treason against the plaintiff. He submitted that there was no agenda of the meeting shown in the notice, which was the subject matter of an impugned press release issued by the PBA.
The counsel submitted that despite repeated demands, the minutes of the meeting were not provided to the plaintiff whereas grounds given for the suspension of membership were not mentioned in Clause 13 of Article of Association on the basis of which disciplinary action had been taken by the PBA.
He submitted that the PBA had no jurisdiction to entertain or decide the matter with regard to treason as such an aspect was the domain of parliament or the courts of the law, adding that the defendant PBA cannot be an authority to give any findings on that account. He submitted that a number of proceedings were pending against the plaintiff in many courts and they were facing and defending these proceedings in accordance with the law before all fora, including courts of law.
He submitted that the PBA had membership of 20 to 25 persons as directors but only 10 members participated in the meeting, who passed the impugned order by way of show of hands without giving any copy of the order to the plaintiff. He submitted that the plaintiff came to know about the impugned order through a press release issued by the PBA. The counsel submitted that the participants of the meeting were competitors of the plaintiff and the purpose of the impugned action was only to extract financial and market benefits and to cause damage to the plaintiff financially or otherwise and, therefore, the pretext mentioned in the impugned letters and documents cannot be the basis of action taken against the plaintiff, which is otherwise not correct.
The counsel submitted that such action had resulted in such a way that all the payments, which are according to prevailing arrangements, were routed through the PBA but those payments were against services already rendered by the plaintiff, had been stopped. He said that such payments in any case could not be stopped by any action as it was not visualised in the Articles of Association.
(It should be noted that it takes 3.5 to 4 months in making financial recoveries. So the decision was aimed at bringing a halt to these recoveries.)He contended that damage had been caused to the plaintiff due to the suspension of membership by the PBA as due to the impugned action, all the rights and privileges of broadcaster were being denied to the plaintiff and that too without adopting the due course of law and giving any proper opportunity of hearing. He said that the impugned action was not a simple suspension but had resulted in stigma on the plaintiff and, therefore, it was violative of various articles of the Constitution. He said that no code of ethics had been prepared or circulated to the knowledge of the plaintiff and in such a situation, the consequences of the suspension amount to condemning the plaintiff without being heard. He submitted that the plaintiff had not been served any show-cause notice regarding violation of any law so far and prayed to the court to set aside the impugned decision of the PBA.
The SHC, after preliminary hearing of the lawsuit, issued notices to the PBA as well as Deputy Attorney General and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority for June 27 and in the meantime suspended the PBA’s decision regarding suspension of the membership of Geo TV Network till next date of hearing.