ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court Chief Justice Athar Minallah has said that ARY channel ran a systematic campaign based on an imaginary narrative to undermine the judiciary and damage the credibility of the judicial system in the eyes of the public which entails serious and disastrous repercussions.
The court questioned the counsel for the petitioner and the channel, ARY News, about the systematic vilification campaign against the judiciary in the context of the events of April 9, 2022. “It has been reported that attempts have been made, particularly by the television channel, ARY News, to bring the august Supreme Court and this Court into disrepute and thus erode the confidence of the people in the judicial system,” the chief justice wrote in his order issued on Thursday.
He also questioned whether any order was passed or a hearing made on the evening of April 9, 2022, that may have prejudiced someone or interfered with the proceedings of the other constitutional bodies.
The chief justice delivered the damning indictment of the private channel while hearing a petition by anchor Arshad Sharif versus the Federation of Pakistan, in which he alleged that he had received threatening messages.
Appearing on behalf of the FIA, Director Humayun Bashir Tarar told the court that no proceedings had been initiated against the petitioner nor any other journalist associated with the television channel managed and operated by M/s ARY Media Communication.
Chief Justice Minallah, in his written order, said that journalists had made similar complaints in the past and directed the FIA to submit a report explaining why the perception of threat from its officials against journalists had not been dispelled.
Commenting on the channel running the campaign against the judiciary, the chief justice noted that, “It appeared as if they were also not aware that in the past this Court has entertained several petitions after the official timings. The petition in hand was also entertained and order was passed after the notified court timings and despite the fact that the prescribed formalities had not been complied with. The learned counsel also appeared to be unaware of dismissal of the petitions received on April 9, 2022, with exemplary costs.”
Responding to another query, the counsel for the petitioners also admitted that it was not the policy of the channel to give airtime to issues such as grave violations of the fundamental rights of victims of enforced disappearances or the students of Balochistan.
In his order, CJ Minallah wrote: “The systematic campaign against the august Supreme Court as well as this Court, particularly by ARY News channel, appears to be based on an imaginary narrative and in disregard to the notified policy of the Court to receive petitions after court timings, provided they involve extreme urgency. The systematic vilification campaign against the Supreme Court and this Court without any basis or prejudice having been caused to any person has profound consequences for those litigants who are admittedly denied a voice by the television channels in violation of their obligations under Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.”
The court summoned the bureau chief of ARY News for May 12 to justify the systematic campaign against the Supreme Court and the IHC.
“The court has always encouraged fair criticism and comments but advancing unfounded political narratives and systematic vilification campaign against the judiciary has grave consequences for the litigants,” the court observed.
The FIA and the Inspector General of Police, Islamabad Capital Territory, were also directed by the court not to harass or take any adverse action against the petitioner or other journalists relating to their professional duties and functions.
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