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Friday June 14, 2024

Suo motu case against Vawda, Kamal: SC bars media from airing, publishing contemptuous material

SC restrained the media from airing and publishing material constituting contempt of court and warned that upon failure, they might be proceeded against in accordance with the law

By Sohail Khan
May 19, 2024
Police officers walk past the Supreme Court of Pakistan building, in Islamabad on April 6, 2022. — Reuters
Police officers walk past the Supreme Court of Pakistan building, in Islamabad on April 6, 2022. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Saturday restrained the media from airing and publishing material constituting contempt of court and warned that upon failure, they might be proceeded against in accordance with the law.

A three-member SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Irfan Saadat Khan and Justice Naeem Akhtar Afgan, issued a written order in a suo moto case taken on the press conferences held by independent Senator Faisal Vawda and Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) MNA Mustafa Kamal targeting the judiciary and its judges.

“That television channels and all those who broadcast, re-broadcast and/or publish material constituting contempt of court may also be committing contempt of court; therefore, they should desist from doing so, failing which they may also be proceeded against for contempt of court,” says the court order.

The bench had issued show-cause notices to Faisal Vawda and Mustafa Kamal the other day holding that what both the politicians said in their press conferences prima facie appeared to be contempt of court and were granted an opportunity to submit their explanation and reply within two weeks of the receipt of show-cause notices.

They were also directed to ensure their appearance before the court on June 5.

The court in its written order noted that on May 15, 2024, Senator Faisal Vawda held a press conference at the National Press Club, Islamabad, which was broadcast live on a number of television channels.

In the press conference, he apparently levelled several malicious and serious allegations against the judiciary, commented on judges of the superior courts and spoke about sub judice cases, including those before this court, said the order, adding that the press conference was also streamed on the internet and social media forums and extracts from his talk were published in different newspapers.

After the matter of Senator Faisal Vawda was numbered as Criminal Original No 6 of 2024, the court noted that a similar press conference was conducted by Mustafa Kamal, Member of the National Assembly, on May 16, 2024, also at the National Press Club, Islamabad, and which was also broadcast live on a number of television channels.

“In the press conference, he apparently levelled several malicious and serious allegations against the judiciary, commented on the judges of the superior courts and spoke about sub judice cases, including those before this court,” said the written order.

The court further noted that the press conference was also streamed on the internet and social media forums and extracts from his talk were published in different newspapers.

The court further noted down in its order that Article 19 of the Constitution grants every citizen the right to freedom of speech and expression, but places restrictions, amongst others, with regard to contempt of court. Article 204 of the Constitution defines contempt of court and empowers this court to punish any person who: “(a) abuses, interferes with or obstructs the process of the court in any way or disobeys any order of the court; (b) scandalises the court or otherwise does anything which tends to bring the court or a judge of the court into hatred, ridicule or contempt; (c) does anything which tends to prejudice the determination of a matter pending before the court; or (d) does any other thing which, by law, constitutes contempt of the court.”

Contempt of Court is further attended to by the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2003.

“Prima facie, what was said by Senator Faisal Vawda, appears to be contempt of court; therefore, we are constrained to issue show-cause notice to him and Senator Faisal Vawda is granted an opportunity to submit his explanation/ reply within two weeks of the receipt of the show-cause notice,” says the order.

The court directed Vawda to be in attendance before the court on the next date of hearing. Show-cause notice was sent to him at his residential address, and also to the Senate Secretariat.

Similarly, the court also noted down in its order that what Mustafa Kamal, MNA, said also prima facie appears to be contempt of court.

“Therefore, we are constrained to issue show-cause notice to him and Mustafa Kamal, MNA, is granted an opportunity to submit his explanation/ reply within two weeks of the receipt of the notice,” said the order.

The court directed Mustafa Kamal to be in attendance before the court on the next date of hearing. He was sent show-cause notice at his residential address and also to the National Assembly Secretariat.

The court also issued notice to the Attorney-General for Pakistan, under rule 7(2) of Order XXVII of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980, who shall conduct the proceedings.

The court directed that copy of the order be sent to the attorney-general while the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) was directed to submit recording of said two press conferences together with their complete transcripts, including that of the question and answer session. The court adjourned the hearing until June 5.