SC to hold hearing to clarify reliance on suo moto notice jurisdiction today

ISLAMABAD – A larger bench in Pakistan’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing on Monday (today) in a case to clarify the issue of a bench invoking suo moto jurisdiction jurisdiction.

In this regard, the Supreme Court constituted the panel of five members a day after a panel of the Supreme Court headed by Qazi Faez Isa learned of the frequent incidents of harassment of journalists. The five-member bench that will consider the matter will be chaired by Acting Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and will include Judge Ijazul Ahsan, Judge Munib Akhtar, Judge Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad and Judge Muhammad Ali Mazhar.

Earlier, taking into account the harassment of journalists suo moto, a bench of two members of the Supreme Court headed by Judge Qazi Faez Isa and including Judge Jamal Khan Mandokhail issued notices to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Friday and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) and summoned the Agency’s CEO in person with the entire original dossier of cases against journalists

The judiciary took note of the suo moto during the hearing of the requests of the Press Association of the Supreme Court and of five active journalists in which it is alleged that large-scale violations of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution and that the government and / or organizations under its control are primarily rights abusers. The applicants stated that journalists are harassed, intimidated, attacked and shot dead and that there are no consequences for the perpetrators. It is further alleged that those who should protect journalists and guarantee press freedom, guaranteed by article 19 of the Constitution, are involved.

They also submitted a press release, issued by the FIA, indicating that criminal cases have been registered against some journalists for reporting against the justice system. However, said press release does not reveal what has been said against justice.

The judiciary noted that superior court judges are constitutionally mandated to ensure that fundamental rights are guaranteed and enforced at all times. The press release gives the impression that the criminal cases were registered at the request of the judiciary and in doing so it portrays the judiciary as being hostile to the guaranteed fundamental right of a free press.

He further noted that the AIF appears to have overstepped its legal mandate and undermined citizens’ confidence in the judiciary which is the guarantor of fundamental rights. By such tactics, people’s respect, consideration and trust in the justice system can be undermined and the judiciary can also be looked down upon and portrayed as being in solidarity with the FIA.

The court order stated that the Director General (CEO) of the FIA ​​without whose permission the press release would not have been issued or who, to date, has not retracted it, would be advised to disclose who authorized the publication of the press release and submit his a written explanation of why he authorized his broadcast mentioning the judiciary and if it was not issued by him then why not has he not withdrawn.

The Director General is also ordered to be present in person in court with the entire original dossier of the cases against the journalists in respect of which the press release was issued and is further requested to submit a list complete of cases brought against journalists, and these The list must specify the actual content, ie the transcription of the text, which the FIA ​​has found to have constituted an infringement.

The petition also complained that journalists are not allowed to work freely and pursue their careers, which constitutes a violation of article 18 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to exercise any legal “profession or occupation”. . Therefore, if a media house / TV channel is brought to fire a journalist because of his independent reporting, it seems to violate article 18 of the Constitution. President PEMRA is invited to submit his written response disclosing the measures taken against media houses / TV stations that resort to such tactics.

The judiciary said the frequent attacks on journalists and their kidnappings, including in the territory of the federal capital, Islamabad, constitute another human rights violation that was raised in the request. It is stated that article 9 of the Constitution guarantees the right to liberty and that article 10 of the Constitution guarantees illegal arrests and detentions. This case becomes worrying when the perpetrators are not arrested and, a fortiori, when it takes place under the cameras of the Safe City Project, Islamabad. Incapacity in this regard may suggest incompetence, which may constitute a dereliction of duty, or much worse aiding and abetting, which is an offense. Therefore, a notice be also sent to the Inspector General of Police of the Capital Territory of Islamabad and to the Interior Ministry, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad through its Secretary to separately submit their written responses. under their respective signatures listing the number of attacks on journalists, the progress made in the FIR investigation, including the identification of the attackers, and whether the Safe City Project camera recordings were used to locate the perpetrators . The amount spent on the Safe City project is also disclosed.

The ordinance states that allegations have also been made that flexible media / TV channels that agree to project a particular political narrative and suppress a contrary narrative benefit financially by misusing funds from the public treasury as they receive financial support. advertisements and other benefits while others are deprived of them. Therefore, a notice should also be sent to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of Pakistan, Islamabad through its secretary, who is responsible for providing details of the amounts paid / disbursed for advertisements. during the last financial year, to date, and the criteria, if any, used to determine beneficiaries.

The court decided to treat this request as a single one under article 184, paragraph 3, of the Constitution, as it demonstrates that questions of public importance have been raised with reference to the application of fundamental rights, in particular articles 9, 11, 13, SMC n ° 4/2021 5 14 (1), 14 (2), 15, 18, 19, 19A, 23, 24 (1) and 25A and as such, it meets the criteria stipulated in article 184 (3) of the Constitution.

Notices should also be sent to the representative bodies of the press, which we know are the Pakistan Broadcasters Association, the Pakistan Newspaper Publishers Council, the Pakistan Newspaper Society and the Federal Union of Pakistan Journalists to indicate whether the claims made in the application are correct or not.

The court said that notices are also to be issued to the public sector Pakistan Television Corporation and Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation through their respective CEOs / Chiefs, who are required to submit in writing if they respect the guaranteed fundamental right to a free press and comply with the decisions of the above-mentioned judgments.

The Attorney General of Pakistan and the Advocates General of the four provinces and the Capital Territory of Islamabad are to receive notices under Order XVIIA of the Civil Procedure Code.

Thelma J. Longworth

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