Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, while wrapping up a suo motu notice on Tuesday, upheld the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision to bar TV channels from airing anti-judiciary speeches on television in the future.
The LHC’s decision — announced while hearing petitions against “contemptuous” speeches by PML-N leaders — directly affects Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and other leaders from the party, all of whom have been involved in anti-judiciary tirades since the Panamagate verdict came out last year.
Earlier today, while taking suo motu notice of the LHC’s decision, the Supreme Court had summoned a record of complaints against the speeches by PML-N leaders filed with the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
The court also summoned the attorney general (AG) of Pakistan as well as advocate generals of all four provinces and LHC registrar.
AG Ashtar Ausaf appeared before the bench and presented the LHC decision. “I want to read out the LHC’s decision in court,” he said.
“You may be the first person to actually read this decision,” the chief justice replied, adding that all media outlets took the LHC’s decision out of context and said that the court had banned speeches by Nawaz and Maryam, “which is not the case. Where in the verdict does it say that speeches [from the two leaders] have been banned?”
“Maryam Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif can come here and speak for as long as they want,” Justice Nisar said and added, “Is there anyone in this country who would disagree with Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution?”
“I cannot believe that court reporters gave this incorrect news — who was it that made changes to the actual news?” the chief justice said while expressing dissatisfaction on the way the media outlets carried the news.
Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution, while allowing all citizens freedom of speech, also says that the freedom is “subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of the glory of Islam or the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, or incitement to an offence”.
The CJP had earlier remarked that it is very important for the parties in the case to be present. At this the AG said that Maryam and Nawaz may not be in the city and, therefore, not available today.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, however, remarked that they have their accountability court hearing today and should be in Islamabad.
The PML-N leaders were served notices by the court to appear in person or by counsel today. “We are here until 7pm,” the CJP said.
Clarification: In a news item on April 16, it was erroneously reported that the LHC had banned “anti-judiciary” speeches by Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and other PML-N leaders. The error is regretted.