Islamabad - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) yesterday reserved its verdict in a writ petition of a private TV channel, challenging Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s decision to ban its programme “Live With Dr Shahid Masood” for 45 days.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq conducted the hearing of the petition and reserved the judgement after hearing the arguments of both the sides.

During the hearing, the counsel for PEMRA Ali Gillani Advocate appeared before the court and said that the television anchors could not be allowed to defame people without any proof. He argued that it is against journalistic ethics that TV anchors set up their own courts and announce verdicts about people.

The counsel informed the court that Supreme Court has also taken notice of this situation and it has sought reply from the PEMRA. The Supreme Court has also sought from PEMRA details of the disciplinary actions taken against the TV channels running malicious campaigns against the judiciary.

At this, Justice Aamir Farooq questioned from the counsel whether responsibility of objectionable conversation on a television lies on channel or anchor. At this the counsel said that the TV channel has violated conditions for issuance of licence while the anchor violated code of conduct and the responsibility lies on both.

Previously, Justice Aamer had directed the PEMRA to submit verified copies of the orders issued by an apex Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim who took notice of the vilification campaign on electronic media against judges of the superior judiciary.

The counsel for ARY Shah Khawar Advocate had contended before the court that Dr Shahid Masood never directly accused any judge of the superior judiciary by name. However, he argued that it was PEMRA which committed contempt of court by clearly naming the judge through its notice. He continued that PEMRA could only initiate action on a complaint that is absent in this matter.

Shah Khawar had maintained that council of complaint without providing a chance to Dr Shahid Masoon imposed a ban that was not even within its ambit of powers. PEMRA’s council of complaint does not even have powers to recommend ban on a television channel.

The court inquired if this petition has been filed by the television channel or Dr Shahid Masood and the counsel replied that it is filed by the television channel.

He informed the court that Federal Investigation Agency has been investigating Dr Shahid Masood for an alleged smearing campaign against judges of the superior judiciary through his Facebook account. Dr Masood then filed an application that the Facebook account does not belong to him and FIA should take action against the person who created fake account in his name. But, the FIA has taken no action in this regard till this time.

The counsel for PEMRA informed the IHC that an apex Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Amir Hani Muslim is already hearing in a matter regarding malicious campaign against judges of the superior judiciary that is fixed for hearing on September 8. He requested the court to hear in this matter after the hearing of Supreme Court while ARY counsel said that till then their writ petition will become infructuous.

However, the IHC bench directed PEMRA to submit orders of different dates issued by the apex court that is hearing in the said matter and deferred the proceedings. ARY communications had challenged PEMRA’s decision to ban its programme for allegedly casting aspersions about chief justice Sindh High Court.

According to PEMRA, a show cause notice was issued on July 19 and the channel was given seven days to respond, but the reply received on July 23 was “unprofessional” and no apology was tendered. The counsel for ARY Advocate had contended before the court that law requires thing to be done in particular manner, it has to be done else it would be illegal or void ab initio.