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National

March 8, 2018

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IHC division bench allows Geo TV ICA

ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad High Court (IHC) division bench here Wednesday allowed Geo TV intra-court appeal (ICA) that it filed against the judicial contempt proceedings, initiated by the court’s single bench comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui against the channel’s management and participants of a programme 'Report Card' for ridiculing the court order regarding Valentine’s Day.

Geo TV management had challenged the judicial contempt proceedings in respect of jurisdiction and an IHC division bench comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb while allowing the ICA has said that under the Contempt of Court Ordinance Section 11, sub-section 3, a judge whose decision is being ridiculed cannot hear in this matter by himself but this is jurisdiction of the chief justice to either hear this matter or fix before another bench.

The division bench has directed the IHC registrar to put this matter before the IHC chief justice. On Feb 20, the IHC single bench had taken notice about a discussion regarding Valentine’s Day in Geo TV programme "Report Card" and had directed Geo News Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mir Ibrahim Rehman, anchor of the programme Ayesha Bakhsh and participants Hassan Nisar and Imtiaz Alam to personally appear before the court to explain that "why contempt of court proceedings may not be initiated against them and why Pemra may not be directed to initiate proceedings for the cancellation of licence of the channel 'Geo News'".

It is to mention here that Justice Siddiqui on Feb 13, 2017 had passed an interim order banning Valentine’s Day celebrations on public places and publicity of the event on electronic media. Taking notice of the discussion in Geo TV programme, the IHC single bench had directed Geo TV management and programme participants to appear before the court.

On Feb 26, Mir Ibrahim, Ayesha Bakhsh, Hassan Nisar and Imtiaz Alam had filed an ICA, arguing that the programme is designed in a format to discuss issues of public importance, seeking variety of opinions from different panellists. The ICA argued that Ayesha Bakhsh, Imtiaz Alam and Hassan Nisar merely voiced their personal opinion about the IHC order and its implementation by Pemra in a fair and temperate manner and on the need for judicature to exercise restraint in a matter that impinge fundamental rights and private choices of the citizens in general. The appellant had stated in the ICA that since the IHC bench has no jurisdiction to initiate contempt of court proceedings, therefore, it may be set aside.

The appellant had submitted that single bench order dated Feb 20 has not mentioned that what opinion in particular has caused an offence and scandalise the judiciary. The order also does not refer to any constitutional or statutory provisions.

The vagueness of the order compromises the appellant's ability to defend themselves adequately. The appellant had stated that the court could not initiate such proceedings under the contempt of court law. The petitioners had prayed to the court to set aside the proceedings as these are coram non judice without jurisdiction for disclosing no cause of action, and for not being in accordance with law and Constitution of Pakistan.

The IHC division bench on Feb 26 while hearing in the said ICA had suspended the paras 3&4 of the single-bench order that were related to the personal appearance of the respondents. After the division bench had suspended paras 3&4, Justice Siddiqui on Feb 27 had directed producer of the programme Maryam Chaudhry to appear before the court in person who also challenged the orders through an ICA. The division bench on Wednesday also allowed Maryam Chaudhry's application.

It is to mention here that IHC single bench in its Feb 20 order had said that one part of the programme relating to order passed by the court against the promotion of Valentine's Day was not only ridicule, disrespected, but was discussed in a very derogatory manner. Prima facie, the court said, the host and M/s Hassan Nisar and Imtiaz Alam without showing any respect or keeping in view the restrictions imposed by Article 19 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 i.e. freedom of speech, etc. cross all limits of decency and morality.

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