Pakistan: SC asks ARY CEO, Mubasher Lucman to furnish replies in one week

Islamabad: Pakistan Supreme Court warned the chief executive officer and an anchorperson of a private television network on Monday of closing their defence in a contempt case if they again failed to submit their explanations for having aired a defamatory and scandalous talk show against the judiciary.

CEO Salman Iqbal and anchorperson Mubashir Lucman of ARY are facing contempt charges for allegedly vilifying an apex court judge.

At the last hearing on Sept 15, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal had asked them to come up with their replies in 10 days for airing the scandalous talk show on May 29.

But when the court was informed by senior counsel Irfan Qadir that the replies could not be filed because the accused were abroad, it expressed displeasure and indicated that it would impose a fine of Rs50,000, but then settled for granting them another week to furnish the replies positively.

Irfan Qadir said that since similar cases were also pending before the Islamabad High Court and the Sindh High Court (SHC), the respondents were confused whether or not to file the replies.

The court had taken up the case relating to the talk show aired on the ARY ‘Khara Sach’ hosted by Mr Lucman on May 29. Slanderous and defamatory allegations were levelled in the show against Justice Jawwad S Khawaja about his relationship to Mir Shakeelur Rehman, the owner of Geo TV network, and the sale of a property in Lahore by the judge’s wife to the Punjab government.

The allegations were raised after Justice Khawaja heard a petition moved by Geo TV network for immediate intervention to halt what they called a ‘hate campaign’ against the channel.

Meanwhile, Advocate Mohammad Ibrahim Satti, representing the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra), submitted a report and said the authority had taken action on June 20 and banned the “Khara Such” programme as well as its anchorperson Mubashir Lucman. Pemra also suspended the licence of ARY for 15 days and imposed a fine of Rs10 million.

But the television channel challenged the Pemra’s decision in the SHC which issued a stay order against the decision on June 24. Later Pemra challenged the high court’s verdict through an intra-court appeal but the earlier judgment was maintained, Mr Satti said.

The court also asked the Pemra’s counsel to submit a request before the Supreme Court suggesting requisitioning of similar cases pending before different high courts.

The same bench also took up a separate but identical case relating to defamatory and critical banners placed in Islamabad against Justice Jawwad Khawaja when the Supreme Court was hearing a plea moved by Geo TV.

Deputy Attorney General Khawaja Ahmed Hosain informed the court that police had completed its investigation and wanted to submit a report, but they had also claimed privilege because the report contained sensitive material.

He requested the court to order that the report should not be made public.

Justice Ejaz Afzal asked police to submit the report in a sealed cover and the court would decide whether or not to keep it secret.

Advocate Sheikh Ehsanuddin, one of the complainants in the case, alleged that senior police officials were avoiding mentioning the name of the mastermind behind the banners.

. Source : Dawn.

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