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April 24, 2018

I’ve stopped taking suo motu, says CJ

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April 24, 2018

ISLAMABAD: The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Saqib Nisar, has said he has stopped taking suo motu notices as the Supreme Court on Monday constituted a committee headed by anchorperson Hamid Mir for examining the financial problems being faced by the management of Geo News and resolving the issue of payment of salaries to its employees.

The court also ruled for looking into the matter pertaining to re-shuffling of number of Geo channel and observed if the channel has a legal right in the matter, it should convince and justify it before the court as nobody could snatch that right from the channel.

The Editor-in-Chief of Geo and Jang Group, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, said this will turn into an issue with the TV channels, requesting the court to explain it. The honourable chief justice replied that he had asked if it was Geo's right to be shown on a specific number. On this, the legal counsel for Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman said there is a law about it and also a decision of the Lahore High Court. The chief justice recalled that they had earlier asked the counsel for Geo to file a separate petition on the issue of blocking the Geo News transmission across the country.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by the chief justice and comprising Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsen, resumed the hearing in the case relating to payment of salaries to the Geo News employees. The court on the request of Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman constituted a five-member committee headed by Hamid Mir with the direction that the committee should give its report within three days. In pursuance of the court directions, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman appeared before the court and apologised for not appearing in the last hearing, adding it was his honour to come to the court when he is called. He submitted that he is quite worried on delay in the payment of salaries to the Geo staff. He said it was his responsibility to pay to his employees. However, he contended there are some reasons for it and he can explain to the court in detail. The chief justice replied that they were sitting here to resolve the issue of non-payment of salaries to his employees on humanitarian grounds. “You are running a big organisation and being an owner of such a huge organisation, you should show some magnanimity and become a role model for other organisations to follow,” the chief justice asked Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

Meanwhile, Justice Saqib Nisar asked the court assistant to remove the projector screen, arranged in the courtroom, saying they wanted to show something to Mir Sahab but now they will not do so. “Love begets love,” the chief justice remarked, and said the show something to Mir Sahab but now they will not do so.

“Love begets love,” the chief justice remarked, and said the judiciary is not against anyone, but determined to resolve the public issues. He asked Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman to explain the reasons for delaying the salaries. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman complained that the newly elected prime minister has suspended government advertisements to Geo while the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also stopped the advertisements to Jang Group. He further submitted that Geo News transmission remained suspended across the country and to some extent it has been restored now. He further informed the court that they have also faced severe loss after attack on Hmaid Mir.

Justice Ijazul Ahsen asked about the billing of salary per month, at which Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman replied that it’s Rs250 million, adding that the salary issue is only with the Geo News, while employees of Jang and The News are regularly getting their salaries.

The chief justice observed that loss in business does not mean that employees be deprived of their due right of their salaries, adding that how the employees will manage house expenditures and how they will pay fees of their children, and how they will pay the fees of doctors. “You are like Kafeel and it is the responsibility of every Kafeel to protect the right of his staff,” the CJ said.

The chief justice without naming any media house said it had sold out its property and paid salaries to its staff. “Give us some timeframe for paying salaries to the staff,” chief justice asked Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman.

“I have consulted my management and taken a bank loan and trying my best to resolve the issue,” Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman told the court, adding that they have almost made 78 percent payment and sought some of three months to resolve the issue.

The chief justice observed as to how the children of these employees will manage. Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman submitted that when there is no income, how he will be able to pay staff salaries. “Our position is such that someone is looting us on gun point,” Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman said.

The chief justice asked as to where the transmission of Geo was blocked. “If you are not violating the law then nobody could stop your channel from airing as you have a licence and no force can block your organisation,” Justice Saqib Nisar remarked.

The chief justice asked Hamid Mir to play his role and a committee can be constituted under him. Hamid Mir replied that neither he is a regular employee, nor part of management of Geo TV. “But you told us that it’s a big organisation,” the CJP told Hamid Mir.

Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman said the big organisation remained blocked repeatedly and requested the chief justice to take suo motu notice on this. At this, the CJ said that he has stopped taking suo motu notices after criticism by the media, adding that the Pakistan Bar Council has also criticised it.

“Now the Bar Council as well as social workers have been directed to bring petitions and the court will hear them,” CJ said. During the hearing, a former employee of Jang Group Azeem Chaudhry also appeared before the court and complained of non-payment of salaries. The chief justice asked him to approach Hamid Mir to resolve his problem.

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