Friday September 22, 2023

Justice Isa questions Pemra ban on news channels

By Our Correspondent
March 16, 2023

ISLAMABAD: Senior judge of the Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa said Wednesday that the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) was destroying the TV industry while imposing undue restrictions on news channels, saying the regulator was generating revenue by giving licences to them.The judge, while raising objections to the constitution of a special bench for hearing a suo moto case on granting 20 extra marks to medical students for being Hafiz-i-Quran, refused to hear the instant case.

Where it is mentioned in the Rules of the Supreme Court about the constitution of a special bench and why a regular bench cannot hear such cases, the judge questioned, adding whether the matter had such importance that instead of forming a larger or full court, a special bench should be constituted.

Justice Isa asked the attorney-general whether special benches should be constituted or not. Attorney-General Shahzad Ata Elahi replied that if the court issued a notice to him, he would reply.

The judge said that the order about granting 20 extra marks to Hafiz-i-Quran medical students was 14 months old, adding that if this concession was to be given, then proper legislation should be made by parliament.

Justice Isa criticised the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for imposing restrictions on news channels and refraining them from airing news on the conduct of judges of the judiciary.

He questioned how one could suppress the voice of the media, adding that an impression is being given that the court has suppressed the voice of media.

The attorney-general submitted that, in its letter, Pemra has refrained the satellite channels from airing news on judges’ conduct and state institutions.

Justice Isa said that the Supreme Court is not a state institution but a constitutional regulatory body, adding that Pemra has upgraded the status of the apex court.

The judge said that when abusive language is used against a civil judge, Pemra doesn’t speak and questioned whether judges of the subordinate judiciary were lesser creatures.

Why Pemra doesn’t take action on speaking against a sessions judge, civil judge, or magistrate, the judge asked.

The judge said that Pemra could take action if somebody gives false news, adding that if the news is blocked on news channels, people will then watch social media.

Justice Isa said that if he does not do anything wrong, his conduct could not come under discussion, asking if somebody becomes a judge of the Supreme Court, he could not be questioned.

“This is the reason Pakistan’s judiciary’s ranking is so poor,” the judge remarked. He said that giving extra marks to medical students for being Hafiz-i-Quran was beyond his understanding.

The attorney-general submitted that not only medical students but additional 20 marks are given to students of other faculties on the basis of Hafiz-i-Quran.

The judge said that this is a sensitive matter, adding that Muslims learn the Quran by heart for the sake of Allah and not to get extra marks.

Justice Isa said that the instant case could be heard when it was fixed transparently, adding that questions were also raised on the decisions given by the benches that were not fixed transparently.

“Therefore, I can’t hear this case, fixed in such a mode,” the judge remarked after referring the matter to the chief justice for reconstitution of the bench to hear the matter.