Treason trial’s media coverage banned
LAHORE- The Lahore High Court chief justice on May 13, 2003 banned the media coverage of the proceedings of a petition seeking the trial of President Gen Musharraf on high treason charges for allegedly making a show of power in public.
The chief justice also ordered the constitution of a division bench to take up this matter. “Keeping in view the nature of the controversy, the petition will be taken up by a division bench during in-camera proceedings to be held on May 19. The coverage of such proceedings in print and electronic media will not be allowed,” read the order comprising six paragraphs.
The LHC office, however, refused to show the remaining contents of the chief justice’s order regarding the referral of the matter to the division bench and ban on proceedings’ coverage, saying “there were no such instructions from the quarters concerned.” The chief justice issued this order during in-camera proceedings on May 13, 2003.
During the last open court proceedings, the chief justice had observed that the LHC did not have the jurisdiction to issue directions to the federal government for Gen Musharraf’s trial under Article 6 of the 1973 Constitution. He also pointed out to the petitioner that the prime minister could be the right authority to be approached in this regard because according to the High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973, the complainant had to be authorized by the federal government to file such petition, and only the prime minister, being the head of the federal government, could give such authority.
The court had also ruled that even under the LHC rules this petition could not be taken up. Further discussion on this objection raised by the court was to be made on May 13, 2003 when the petition was referred to the division bench.
The Pakistan Lawyers Forum (PLF) had alleged in the petition that in the light of Supreme Court’s judgments in Zafar Ali Shah and Wasim Sajjad’s cases, the president was required to relinquish the power to a civilian government by Oct 2002. However, he himself became the president and announced in public that he would hold both the offices of COAS and president, which according to PLF was a show of power and tantamount to treason as defined in the Article 6 of the 1973 Constitution.