Tariq Ullah Wardag
ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has said that Lahore High Court has not barred from airing the speeches of Nawaz Sharif or any other political leader.
Wrapping up the suo moto notice regarding the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision banning the transmission of anti-judiciary speeches by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and other leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, he remarks that some elements would like to malign the judiciary through such news, Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz could speech before the court.
Three member bench of supreme court heard the suo moto case, acting Chairman PEMRA also appeared before court.
The chief justice remarked that nowhere does it say in the LHC order that Nawaz and Maryam’s speeches have been banned.
PEMRA had not taken any action under article 19, regulatory authority is using the delaying tactics. Bench questioned that should we order the investigation of fake news to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), who gave this news to media, beat reporter can’t do this.
Court also rebuked the appearance of Counsel Salman Akram Raja, and remarked that Salman Akram Raja is the lawyer of Nawaz Sharif but appeared on the behalf of PEMRA.
The court also summoned the attorney general (AG) of Pakistan as well as the advocate generals of all four provinces and the LHC’s registrar.
AG Ashtar Ausaf had subsequently appeared before the bench and presented the LHC decision.
“I want to read out the LHC’s decision in court,” he had said.
“You may be the first person to actually read this decision,” Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed retorted, observing that all media outlets had taken the LHC’s decision out of context by reporting that the court had banned Nawaz and Maryam’s speeches.
“This is not the case. Where in the verdict does it say that speeches [from the two leaders] have been banned?” the chief justice asked the AG.
“Maryam Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif can come here and speak for as long as they want,” Justice Nisar said and added, “Is there anyone in this country who would disagree with Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution?”
Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution, while allowing all citizens freedom of speech, also says that the freedom is “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, or incitement to an offence”.
“I cannot believe that court reporters disseminated this incorrect news. Who was it who made changes to the actual news?” the chief justice asked.
Text of order: Court Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar: We took Suo Motu Notice in this matter on account of media reports and panel discussions on various media channels based on an order dated 16.04.2018 passed by a Full Bench of the Lahore High Court, Lahore. A false impression was intentionally sought to be created amongst the general public by such news reports as well as panel discussions that Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (ex Prime Minister of Pakistan) and his daughter Ms. Maryam Safdar had been directed to be taken off air and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) had been directed to stop broadcasting of speeches made by the said persons. Further, it was categorically stated that the learned High Court had banned airing of anti judiciary speeches by a large number of persons including Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Ms. Maryam Safdar.
- A false impression was also sought to be created that the fundamental right to freedom of speech enjoyed by all citizens and guaranteed by the Constitution has been curtailed, restricted or diminished through the said order.
- We have summoned the order of the learned High Court and carefully gone through the same. Perusal of the said order indicates that PEMRA which is a regulatory authority of broadcasters has been directed to implement the law in terms of Article 19 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 read with Section 27 of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Ordinance, 2002 and Section 2(j) of the Electronic Media (Programmes and Advertisements) Code of Conduct, 2015.
Further, PEMRA has been directed to decide various applications moved by a number of applicants for enforcement of law against hate speech within a period of 15 days.
- There is nothing in the order which even remotely directs or obligates PEMRA to ban Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Ms. Maryam Safdar or any body else. The media speculation, panel discussions and press reports appearing on various channels and media outlets and in various newspapers today are incorrect, baseless and unsubstantiated. The opinions, verbal or in writing have clearly and obviously been expressed without even reading the contents of the order of the High Court.
- We have confronted the learned Attorney General for Pakistan as well as the learned counsel appearing on behalf of PEMRA if the order in question in any manner imposes a ban, embargo or restriction on Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Ms. Maryam Safdar or any body else. They have frankly conceded that this is not the case and the contents of the order do not support any such conclusion. They agree and acknowledge without any reservation whatsoever that as guardians of the Constitution and custodians of fundamental rights the superior Courts of the country are mandated and obligated to ensure that fundamental rights are protected and enforced with full force and vigor with all their manifestations and strictly in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the law.
- We had also issued notices to Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Ms. Maryam Safdar and had directed the learned Attorney General for Pakistan to convey the same to the said persons to enable them to arrange their representation. None has appeared on their behalf. However, learned counsel appearing on behalf of other Respondents and the Attorney General for Pakistan, after going through the order, agree that there is nothing in the order that can even remotely be interpreted to mean or imply that a ban has been imposed on the said persons or taking them off-air. All learned counsel unanimously agree that as the regulator for electronic media, it is the duty of PEMRA to enforce the law as provided in Section 27 of the Ordinance, 2002 read with Section 2(j) of the Code of Conduct ibid and the order in question merely reiterates the said position.
- Having satisfied ourselves that the order of the learned High Court, referred to above, does not in any way curb, restrict, curtail or diminish the fundamental right of freedom of speech as enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution and merely directs PEMRA to enforce the law which it is obliged to do and decide the applications pending before it relating to hate speech against any and all organs of the State, we are inclined to dispose of this Suo Motu Notice. Disposed of accordingly.