Tuesday Apr 17, 2018
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar clarified on Tuesday that the Lahore High Court (LHC) did not ban former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam from making speeches.
The remarks came as a three-member bench took suo motu notice of reports that the LHC, on Monday, had banned the transmission of anti-judiciary speeches by senior Pakistan Muslim League-N leaders.
Earlier today, the apex court had issued notices to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and also sought the record of the LHC order after taking notice of the news reports.
The court also directed the attorney general, who appeared in court, to find out when Nawaz and Maryam are available so they or their counsels can appear for the hearing.
As the hearing went under way later in the afternoon, the court expressed displeasure at the media coverage of the LHC order, with Justice Ijazul Ahsan terming it 'fake news'.
The chief justice remarked that nowhere does it say in the LHC order that Nawaz and Maryam’s speeches have been banned.
The bench observed that the high court has only ordered PEMRA to enforce the law, adding that the court cannot curtail fundamental rights.
The chief justice asserted that the court never stopped anyone from healthy criticism.
Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed remarked that the news reporting of the incident was "managed and spread systematically" and directed the attorney general to identify the source who "planted" this news.
He added that PEMRA appears to be completely helpless.
Appearing before the bench, the ad-hoc chairman of PEMRA was criticised for not taking notice of the news reports.
Justice Ahsan asked if Article 19 should not be invoked and respect of the judiciary enforced, adding that, "why weren’t notices issued to channels for violating rules".
The court then ordered PEMRA to take action on the complaints against PML-N leaders in 15 days, as stated in the LHC order, and wrapped up the suo motu proceedings.
During the hearing, PEMRA's counsel Salman Akram Raja was reprimanded for representing the authority as well as the PML-N leaders in various cases before the apex court.
Raja issued an apology after the court warned of cancelling his licence.
Despite summons, no one represented the PML-N leaders.
A day earlier, LHC gave the decision on over two dozen petitions filed against alleged 'anti-judiciary' speeches by Nawaz, Maryam, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other party leaders.
The court ordered PEMRA to decide on the petitions in 15 days and until that time refrain from airing any contemptuous remarks by the respondents.
Justice Mazahir Ali Naqvi, who headed the three-member full bench, also ruled that the court will personally monitor PEMRA's conduct in the next two weeks to see how it implements the court's order.
More than a dozen petitions had been filed in the LHC contending that the PML-N leadership had been making derogatory speeches against Supreme Court judges since the verdict of Nawaz’s disqualification in the Panama Papers case last year.
A case was registered against PML-N workers for a protest outside the Supreme Court on Friday, after the latter ruled that lawmakers disqualified under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution would be unable to contest elections for the rest of their life.
A woman MPA Tehseen Jawad, Sajid Awan, and Rafique Chaudhry were named in the case, registered at the Secretariat Police Station.
The case has been registered under Section 228 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), which makes intentional insult or interruption to public servant sitting in judicial proceeding punishable by simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to three thousand rupees, or with both.
No arrests have been made after the case was registered, said sources in the police.