ISLAMABAD -  Mr Justice Saqib Nisar of the Supreme Court has made it clear that he has no friends and no one should expect any favour as all cases would be decided on merit.

He gave these remarks while hearing a contempt petition against a TV channel which had aired a “false news” regarding a meeting between a Supreme Court judge and a ruling party lawmaker a couple of days back.

On November 18, Din News channel telecast the news that a private meeting was held between Justice Hani Muslim and PML-N Senator Nehal Hashmi, focusing on the Panama leaks case being heard by the apex court.

Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, while expressing concern over the news item, had taken took suo motu notice and formed a bench to hear the case.

While taking up the suo motu case, Justice Nisar, the senior most judge of the apex court, said: “In the morning, there was a letter on my table that there was a discussion on a TV channel that the Supreme Court will soon witness a change and I (Justice Saqib) have “good relations with the people in the power” and now decisions would come in their favour”.

At the beginning of the hearing, Justice Saqib Nisar, after reciting Kalima Tayyaba, said: “I swear by Allah, I have no friends, and whoever comes before me will be treated fairly.” “This is my payback time.”

Justice Saqib said: “We have to protect the institution. People say a lot of things about us, but we can’t give explanation and issue press releases.”

The apex court allowed the counsel for the TV channel to amend the petitions to include words “news item was false and fabricated.”

Barrister Ali Zafar, representing Din News owners, Mehmood Sadiq, Uzma Mehmood Sadiq and Mustafa Niaz, sought an unconditional, unqualified and sincere apology over the gaffe. He said his clients seek clemency from the court and feel ashamed.

He informed the court that the TV management has suspended the entire news team after holding an inquiry and issued them show cause notices. He said 10 years ago Din News had made SOPs that no statement would be aired against Islam, judiciary and army.

Zafar said: “The normal procedure of telecasting news is that first it comes to the chief news editor who examines and forwards it to the news editor. The news editor checks it and then sends the same to the news producer, which finally goes on air. However, in the instant matter, the procedure was bypassed and the news director gave a go-ahead for airing the news”.

The counsel said the Pemra has already passed an order against them and suspended their licence for one month and also imposed a fine of Rs 1 million.

Justice Saqib asked the counsel if it was the stance of the Din News owners that it was a false and fabricated story. Zafar, however, did not give a straight reply, but said it was a gross negligence and bypassed the routine procedure.

The judge said they respect the media and it was mutual reciprocity and this institution should not be maligned as it was also one of the pillars of the state. “We are not sacred cows, but talking about the conduct of a judge is damaging. Respect should be given to the judiciary as a whole and not only the superior courts.”

Justice Saqib said he was surprised when he saw the news. “It was the motive and objective of the story to discredit and malign the judiciary.” The judge told the Din News counsel that the news has caused a damage of such proportion as was irreparable. “Don’t malign judges, these kinds of aspersions hurt us. Without thinking, airing such news is not appropriate,” the judge observed.

Azhar Siddique, appearing on behalf of DIN Director News Iftikhar Hussain Kazmi, said the news item was false and fabricated. He sought mercy, but Justice Saqib asked him to seek mercy from God as He had chosen them to do justice.

The case was adjourned for one week.