ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Monday removed Minister of State for Information Marriyum Aurangzeb from the selection committee constituted to scrutinise candidates for the post of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority chairman.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by CJP Mian Saqib Nisar and consisting of Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, took the action while hearing the media commission case.

The top court replaced the state minister with Information Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera as the committee member.  The CJP observed the minister must be busy giving statements and would not have time for the committee.

He expressed his dismay on the reaction of PML-N to judgment, wherein the SC had declared lifetime ban on a person not qualifying under Article 62 (1)(f) for being a member of the Parliament.

“Anti-judiciary slogans were raised outside the court after Friday’s judgement,” the CJP observed.

“They were hiding behind women. If they had courage, they would have come out in public [to express their anti-judiciary feelings]. I don’t know of any lion [PML-N leader]. These [judges] are the real lions," he said.

Additional Attorney General Rana Waqar told the bench that a selection committee had been constituted with the approval of the prime minister.

The committee will scrutinise the candidate for the post of Pemra chairman. The committee will be headed by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Sartaj Aziz.  The committee includes Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) Chairman Mian Amir Mehmood, All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) President Hameed Haroon, Senior Journalist Arif Nizami and Information Secretary Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera.

Besides drafting new laws governing Pemra, the committee will propose a three-member panel for selection of the regulatory body’s chairman within three weeks, Waqar informed the bench.

The chief justice observed that the Supreme Court wanted to end the government’s control over Pemra and that an upright person must head the authority.

The CJP questioned if there was any clause regulating propagation of fake news, adding that the matter of fake news was a pressing issue.

Waqar responded that it was imperative to curb the propagation of such information. The top court also observed that media’s independence was proportional to the independence of the judiciary, adding if the judiciary was weak then the media would also be weak. The hearing of the case was adjourned for two weeks. The court also summoned owner of Geo/Jang Group Mir Shakilur Rahman today (Tuesday) to explain the reasons for three-month delay in payment of salaries to his employees.

The CJP suggested Hamid Mir, who is the main petitioner in the media commission case, that he should raise the voice for reporters. He observed that reporters were assets and anchorpersons conducted their programmes based on news collected by reporters.

When the court asked Mir about his monthly salary, he skipped the query and responded that his salary too had not been released for the last three months.

On this, the CJP remarked in a lighter vein how was he managing fuel for his Mercedes car. He observed an anchor was drawing Rs5.2 million and another Rs3.2 million.  When Mir negated, the CJP said he has record of salaries.

Meanwhile, journalist Asad Kharral submitted his concise statement.

According to the statement, the powers given to the federal government under Section 5 of the Pemra (Amendment) Act 2007 needed to be interpreted in view of the fundamental rights of the citizens as given under Article 19.

“Section 5 needs interpretation regarding exercise of powers by the federal government and any direction(s)/decision(s) in this regard of the federal government will revolve around Article 19. As Section 5 is not clear and unspecified with reference to the powers exercised by the federal government therefore, it needs to be clarified by this honourable court being apex as well as Constitutional court of the country, without any further delay,” the statement said.

The statement further requested the top court to issue directions for the criteria as laid down in the law and principles given in several judgments of the superior courts of Pakistan for making recruitment in public-sector organisation or autonomous bodies or semi-autonomous bodies, particularly Pemra.

 

 

Syed Sabeehul Hussnain