DTH licence: SC issues notice to attorney general
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the attorney general in the appeals filed by Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and others against a Lahore High Court verdict in a case pertaining to Direct to Home (DTH) technology.
The notice was issued for interpretation of constitutional provisions relating to freedom of trade, business or profession in the country. A five-member bench headed by Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah adjourned further hearing till first week of November.
The Pemra, Meg Entertainment, Star Times and Shahzad Sky (Pvt) Limited have filed appeals against the LHC judgment.
On Monday, Asma Jehangir appeared before the court on behalf of Independent Newspapers Company (Jang Group, Geo), Salman Akram Raja for Pemra and Jam Asif Mehmood for Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA).
Asma submitted that her client had participated in the initial phase of bidding and was earlier declared the successful bidder; however, the Pemra was not sharing the information in this regard for which they had to approach the court. Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and Wasim Sajjad also appeared before the court on behalf of companies who had participated in the bidding process for DTH licence.
Raja told the court that Indian channels were aired illegally in the country through DTH and hence the regulatory body, while giving legal coverage to the technology, asked for tenders to get the required licence. He said after the bidding process started, the Independent Newspapers Company, raising objections, challenged some provisions of the DTH Regulations, 2016 before the LHC.
It is pertinent to mention that the LHC had nullified auction of DTH licence carried out by Pemra after striking down the rules and regulations which barred broadcasters from applying/participating in the bidding process.
Accepting the plea of the Independent Newspapers Corporation, the LHC larger bench allowed broadcasters to apply/participate in bidding while issuing directives to Pemra to form rules and regulations for DTH.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had vacated stay on the bidding process for DTH licence with directives to the Pemra that it would not grant licence to successful bidder till final determination of the matter pending before the LHC.
On November 22 last year, a LHC three-member stayed the bidding process, scheduled on November 23 in Islamabad, in response to the petitions filed by Independent Newspapers Corporation (Pvt) Limited and others.
The LHC bench led by Justice Ayesha A Malik stayed the process on grounds that another bench had reserved judgement in the main case, saying the Pemra could not initiate the bidding till announcement of the verdict.
Subsequently, the Pemra on November 23 challenged the LHC verdict before the apex court, identifying failure of the LHC to appreciate the law that the interim relief could not have been granted only on grounds that the judgement had been reserved in the main case.
Likewise, the PBA also filed an application in the Supreme Court for becoming a party in the instant case which was accepted by the apex court. In its plea, the PBA conceded to the LHC verdict and contended that some of the provisions of the DTH Regulations, 2016 were against Section 25 of the PEMRA Ordinance
It was contended that under Section 25 of the PEMRA Ordinance, a licence shall not be granted to (a) a person who is not the citizen of Pakistan or resident in Pakistan (b), a foreign company organised under the laws of any foreign government, (c) a company the majority of whose shares are owned or controlled by a foreign nationals or company whose management or control is vested in foreign nationals. But the DTH Regulations, 2016 allowed the foreign companies to participate in the bidding process.