SC voids Pemra’s bid to vest its chief with all powers
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has struck down a key decision of the Pakistan Electronic
Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to centralise its powers in the hands of its chairperson,
directing the media watchdog to establish formal rules in this regard.
This verdict relates to an appeal filed by Neo TV, challenging a fine of Rs500,000 imposed by
In the landmark ruling, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali
Shah, invalidated a 2007 decision by Pemra to delegate its powers to the chairperson.
The matter originated when a complaint filed before the Pemra’s Council of Complaints (COC)
accused Neo TV of violating the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of
Conduct, 2015, during a programme aired in March 2021.
Says public bodies should spell out guidelines on use of their power
In a meeting next month, the COC found the programme’s content culpable and suggested the
fine, which the Pemra chairperson sanctioned on April 29. Later, the Lahore High Court
dismissed an appeal against Pemra’s order.
Advancing the legal challenge, Barrister Afzal Hussain appealed against the LHC’s verdict,
arguing that the Pemra chairperson couldn’t make the final decision alone over the COC’s
recommendations because there were no rules in this regard.
The Supreme Court’s decision was reserved in June 2023, but the detailed judgement was
uploaded on the court’s website on Friday.
The members of Pemra comprised six ex-officio members, including the Pemra chairperson, its
executive member, the heads of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the Federal
Board of Revenue, the interior and information secretaries, and five independent members each
from four provinces and one from the federal government.
“What Pemra has done in its meeting dated 31.07.2007 has been to delegate the power in the
very terms in which it was given to Pemra to the Chairman Pemra specifying no standards and
leaving everything in the Chairman Pemra’s discretion,” the Supreme Court said in the order.
“Public bodies in whom discretion is vested are under an obligation to confine and structure it by
the promulgation of decisional criteria to strike the best balance in the context between rules and
discretion. This is the reason that the legislature aimed to limit the delegation to the conditions
prescribed by the rules,” it added.
It said the law also establishes COCs under Section 26 with an adjudicatory-cum-
recommendatory role to address public complaints against any aspects of programmes broadcast
or distributed by electronic media.
The court said that the COC has powers to summon a licensee against whom a complaint has
been made, to render opinions on such complaints and in case of violation, the COC may
recommend appropriate action of censure or fine to Pemra.
The power to impose fines, based on the COC’s recommendations, belongs to Pemra, the court