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February 28, 2020

Plea against Aurat March: Freedom of expression can’t be restricted, says CJ

Lahore

February 28, 2020

LAHORE:Lahore High Court Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh on Thursday remarked that freedom of expression could not be restricted or banned.

He made these remarks while hearing a petition challenging the upcoming “Aurat March” filed by Judicial Activism Panel’s Chairman Advocate Azhar Siddique. Senior lawyer and human right activist Hina Jillani also appeared before the court and filed an application on behalf of several journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and academics. She questioned locus standi of the petitioner to present and argue the petition before the court. She argued that the applicants had a right of being heard by the court before any decision on the matter.

Advocate Siddique stated that he was not asking the court for a blanket ban on the woman march but demanding the administration to regulate it within the limits of law and Islamic injunctions.

“The only issue I have is objectionable placards held by the participants of the last year march,” said the petitioner’s lawyer. He also presented the pictures of the ‘objectionable’ placards before the court. CJ Sheikh reminded the lawyer that the court would put his statement on record that he did not want a ban on the march. Ms Jillani pointed out that the petitioner was also against the campaign of the march on social media.

A lawyer on behalf of traders also opposed the march saying the business activities on The Mall were badly affected during the previous demonstration. "We are holding the Aurat March to highlight the importance of women in our society. The march will be held on a Sunday and will not hinder any economic activity," Jilani told the court.

She pointed out that the march was also held last year and had remained peaceful. During the hearing, Chief Justice Sheikh snubbed a lawyer, Azeem Danyal, for interrupting arguments of Ms Jillani. The lawyer also exchanged harsh words with Advocate Siddique before the hearing was adjourned.

The chief justice directed both sides to file their replies by next hearing and also sought reports from DIG Operations about security arrangements for the marchers and on the aspect of terrorism threat, if any.

The law officers of federal and provincial governments were given time to file their reports by the next date. CJ Sheikh lamented that there had been irresponsible statements on social media regarding previous proceedings in the case. He noted that the application by Mr Siddique had not been admitted so far as the court simply issued notice on it.