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July 5, 2016

Stay on ban on Geo’s Inam Ghar continues


July 5, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday directed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to decide in one month the matter pertaining to ban on Geo TV Programme Inam Ghar.

A two member bench of the apex court, comprising Justice Dost Muhammad Khan and Justice Qazi Faez Isa disposed of the appeal filed by Pemra against the Sindh High Court order that had suspended the Regulator order of banning transmission of Geo TV Programnme Inam Ghar for three days. 

The Sindh High Court on June 29, suspended the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s three days of ban on the Geo TV programme Inam Ghar till further orders. The interim order was issued on a miscellaneous appeal filed by the Independent Media Corporation against Pemra’s June 27 press release in which it banned the broadcasting of the  Inam Ghar, being hosted by renowned anchor Dr Amir Liquat Hussain for three days.

Pemra’s council of complaints had recommended a three-day ban on the TV show (from June 28 to June 30) besides directing Geo TV to air an apology for hurting the sentiments of the people. Earlier, a notice was issued to the Geo TV for airing on June 6 scenes of a girl committing suicide and a participant of the programme abusing during the show.

Pema, howeve, filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the order passed by the Sindh High Court. On Monday, the court disposed of Pemra’s appeal with direction to the authority to decide the instant matter within one month.

“As the rest of the four allegations/charges fall within the domain of Pemra, therefore, it may proceed with the same according to the law and rules on the subject and to conclude the matter as was agreed at the bar within 30 days, which shall commence after Eid holidays,” the court ruled in its order. The court further ruled that the respondent (Independent Media Corporation) may submit reply within 10 days after Eid vacation.

The court ruled that the appeal filed by the respondent before the High Court of Sindh has become infructuous and may be disposed of accordingly. The court, in its order, stated that at the very outset, the learned counsel for the parties agreed that let the main CPLA be decided in the terms that so far as the suspension of the show/programme for three days by Pemra is concerned, due to injunction order of the learned High Court of Sindh a very narrow margin of time is left and because the matter is listed for hearing today before the said court, hence to that extent, the petition has almost become infructuous. 

The court further ruled that the rest of the four charges are still alive and to be inquired into/investigated by the COC and after receiving the recommendations, the Pemra(competent authority) would look into it while complying with all the rules and provisions of law on the subject and will also consider the effect of the apology to be tendered publicly by the Channel and through the print media.

The court ruled that in view of these arrangements, the appeal filed by the respondent before the High Court of Sindh has become infructuous and may be disposed of accordingly. Earlier,  Pemra Chairman Absar Alam, along with Kashif Hanif, counsel for the authority, appeared before the court while Jam Asif Mehmood and Qutabud-Din Saim Hashmi represented the Independent Media Corporation. 

Jam Asif Mahmood, counsel for Independent Media Corporation, submitted before the court that Inam Ghar was one of the recent programmes of the appellant in its Ramazan transmission, which was hosted by renowned anchor and Islamic scholar Dr Amir Liquat Hussain and the programme highlights some social issues prevailing in the society and question-answer with the audience and distribution of gift hampers to participating audience.

The counsel submitted that Pemra on June 14 issued a show cause notice to the appellant regarding its programme Inam Ghar and alleged violation of Section 20(C ) of Pemra Ordinance and relevant rules.

The court was informed that the appellant responded to the show cause notice and requested for time and to provide the details of all the complaints with their contents and identity so that the appellant may furnish a comprehensive reply to the show cause notice.

However, he submitted that no such details and relevant material have been supplied by the respondent to the appellant so far. He submitted that a representative of the appellant has approached the Pemra complaint council and requested 15 days time to furnish a comprehensive reply whereas the council agreed for such an extension of time and advised the representative of the appellant to furnish such reply on the third day of Eid as reflected in the impugned press release. However, the counsel submitted that Pemra contrary to it suspended the broadcasting of Inam Ghar for three days till June 30.

 He submitted that neither any proper order had been issued by the respondent authority in terms of Pemra Ordinance nor the appellant has been provided with an opportunity to explain its position whereas in utter violation of the law and rules, the impugned press release has been issued, which amounts to condemn the appellant unheard and deprive the appellant from right to free trial.

 The Pemra chairman, when tried to produce before the court the CD of programme Inama Ghar, the court asked him as to whether he used to maintain equality while dealing with all the TV channels or bent upon taking notice against a single channel and its anchor. The court further observed that if a channel violates code of conduct, framed by the authority, than the authority can proceed against the channel while using its full authority.

Justice Dost Muahammad Khan questioned counsel for Pemra as to how the authority first can punish the channel and then also give it time for submitting a reply.  “You are placing carts before the horse,” Justice Dost Muhammad questioned Pemra counsel adding that the authority should have first gave time to the respondent to submit a reply, and the council of complaints should have listened to its view point and then should have issued the final verdict. 

Pemra brought into the notice of the court that many other channels, like the one under consideration, have not installed the censoring devices, particularly time delaying mechanism to cut off and expunge the offending part of the live show/programme and bring it in conformity with the Pemra rules and provisions of the Ordinance.

The court asked learned counsel for Pemra as to whether the regulator has any facility to check the time delaying mechanism Absar Alam, Chairman Pemra submitted before the court that a team of experts would soon inspect all the channels to ensure that such device i.e. time delaying mechanism is in place so that undesirable and offending programs or spoken words are not aired and the same are blocked.  Later, the court disposed of the matter, directing Pemra to decide the matter of banning geo tv program Inam Ghar in a month.



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