Friday December 08, 2023

No relief for fugitives, says IHC CJ in plea against ban on airtime

By Sabah
November 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice, Athar Minallah, declined on Thursday to provide any relief to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who has been declared a proclaimed offender in graft cases.

Hearing a petition filed by renowned journalists and anchorpersons against the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra) ban on the broadcast of speeches and interviews by proclaimed offenders and absconders, Justice Minallah stated in clear terms that this court could not extend relief to any fugitive from justice.

“We can’t give relief on the plea even if the Pemra’s notification [regarding the ban] was illegal,” he remarked recalling the court did not provide any relief to former military dictator Pervez Musharraf when he was an absconder. The IHC chief justice noted the notification was issued under Section 31 of the Pemra Ordinance. “A relevant forum can be approached for redressal of grievance if any channel or individual has been affected by the ban,” he suggested.

Justice Minallah said the former prime minister’s CNIC and passport had been blocked. “If the plea is granted all absconders will be entitled to such relief,” he pointed out to the petitioners.

The petitioners’ counsel Salman Akram Raja Advocate said the Pemra had not placed a ban on any politician or person. “The people who feel that the Pemra ban violates their rights can file an appeal against it,” remarked the chief justice. “Those who are absconding have no right to challenge any ban. They should surrender first and then ask for legal protection,” he added.

Justice Minallah said the court could not be expected to suspend the Pemra’s notification as it will provide other absconders and proclaimed offenders with an opportunity for broadcasting their speeches too.

The IHC chief justice summoned arguments from Advocate Akram Raja at the next hearing on December 16.

It may be mentioned here that the Pemra had banned the speeches of proclaimed offenders and absconders on October 2 after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo Nawaz Sharif addressed a multi-party conference through video link.

A self-explanatory complaint was lodged by one Azhar Siddique against various news channels which aired the speech. The authority said it found that news channels had violated its May 27, 2019 instructions on giving coverage to proclaimed offenders. The notification reminded news channels that they were bound to comply with the Pemra laws.—Sabah