Channel owner, anchor, producer appear in court
LAHORE: A five-member Lahore High Court bench on Tuesday directed anchorperson Mubasher Lucman and ARY programme Khara Sach producer Rao Qaisar to appear in the court in person on October 24 and submit their written replies.
A larger bench, headed by Justice Syed Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, and comprising Justice Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah, Justice SM Kazim Raza Shamsi, Justice M Sohail Iqbal Bhatti and Justice Shahzada Mazhar, heard the case about a programme in which the judiciary and judges were allegedly insulted.
During the Tuesday proceedings, the court issued a five-page verdict, saying that in response to bailable arrest warrants, issued on October 17, ARY News owner Salman Iqbal, anchor Mubasher Lucman and producer Rao Qaisar appeared before the court.
Counsel for the accused, Fawad Ahmad Chaudhry Advocate informed the court that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) suspended the ARY News Network licence for 15 days and imposed a fine of Rs10 million, though the court had not given any such orders in its written verdict.
Pemra Chairman Pervez Rathore told the bench the ARY News Network licence had been suspended and fine imposed under Section 20 of Pemra Ordinance 2002, read with Rule 15 of Pemra Rules 2009, for violation of Clause 1 F, G & H of the code of conduct, stated in the schedule of Pemra Rules 2009.
However, the court held that no such direction was ever issued to Pemra authorities to suspend the licence or pass any order for closure of the News Network. The direction was confined to a particular programme ‘Khara Sach’, containing aspersions against judges of the superior courts in particular and judiciary as an institution, which was aired thrice on Sept 22, 23.
Mubasher Lucman, however, submitted his reply saying that he respected courts and never held any programme to malign the courts and the judiciary as an institution. Upon which, the court observed that nobody should consider himself above the law and should do his work in obedience to the law.
Salman Iqbal, ARY chief executive officer, pleaded with the court that he had travelled from the UK to Pakistan to appear before the court in a state of emergency just to show his bona fide and respect to the court, though, his son was hospitalised over there in order to undergo a surgical intervention in near future.
He requested the court to grant him exemption from personal appearance before the court. The court accepted his plea and granted him exemption in the case for a period of fortnight.
Representing the respondents, Advocate Fawad Chaudhry pleaded the court to adjourn the proceedings, so he could prepare his brief and submit reply as per notices issued earlier. At this, the bench adjourned the proceedings till Oct 24, with a direction to the respondents to appear in person and submit their written replies.
During proceedings, Justice Mazahir asked Mubasher Lucman what was “Khara Sach” (pure truth), and remarked that there are only two things: either a truth or a lie. The judge asked the anchor to be humble and face the ground realities. The judge remarked that one has to face punishment for the excesses. The court warned that action against the anchor could be taken for providing a platform to a proclaimed offender and a fraudulent person.
A large number of journalists including ARY workers were present in the court and the room was filled to the capacity. When Mubasher Lucman and Salman Iqbal appeared in the court, dozens of people accompanying them chanted slogans of “Go Nawaz go”. Supporters of PML-N in the legal fraternity also gathered there, though no untoward incident occurred.
During proceedings, a large number of affectees of Future Concerns Company, including men and women, were present in the courtroom, who severely criticised Mubasher Lucman for airing the interview of Future Concerns owner Asim Malik in his programme.
To a court query, Deputy Attorney General Waqas Qadeer told the court the controversial episode of Khara Sach programme could not be monitored and it went on air.
Counsel for Mubasher Lucman said his client respected the court and he has a history of his efforts for the independence of the judiciary.
Justice Mazahir remarked what was that history. He provided the channel platform to such a person who is charged with Rs11 billion fraud. The same court ordered registration of over 100 cases against the accused and issued red warrant against him, added the judge.
Earlier, the division bench headed by Justice Syed Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, took suo motu notice and issued bail-able arrest warrants against Salman Iqbal, anchorperson Mubasher Lucman, programme producer and the owner of a defunct ‘visa consultancy’ Asim Malik.
Meanwhile, a bench of Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday suspended the order of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) which suspended the licence of the ARY News TV channel for 15 days besides imposing a fine of Rs10 million for maligning judiciary in violation of code of conduct on Monday.
The bench, led by Justice Faisal Arab, suspended the Pemra order and issued notice to it for October 27. Abid Zubairi advocate on behalf of ARY told the court that the Pemra had issued show-cause notice on October 10 and fixed October 16 for hearing into the show-cause notice. On the next hearing, the applicant was told that the notices were served and later on the licence of the petitioner was suspended, while the ban was imposed on ARY’s programme ‘Khara Sach’ and on anchorperson Mubashir Lucman.
The petitioner adopted that the Pemra had taken the decision without hearing the petitioner, therefore, it was pleaded that the decision should be declared null and void. After hearing, the SHC, while suspending order of the Pemra, issued notices to the defendantsfor October 27.