ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Thursday observed that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) is responsible for the present situation developed in the country. "The situation developed to such a level is due to the Pemra," remarked Justice Gulzar Ahmed, member of a three-judge bench headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, which heard the Geo channel petition.
The court said that it is for Pemra to ensure that the constitutional provisions set out in Articles 19 and 19A of the Constitution are strictly adhered.
Justice Jawwad dismissed the demand made in another private TV channel programme that he should recuse from the bench hearing the case. "I do not find any reason whatsoever not to sit on this bench," he remarked.
When the bench heard the case at 12:00pm, the honourable judge said that his driver had told him about a news report published in a newspaper that you (Justice Jawwad) were going to hear an important case while a channel demanded that he should not hear the case. After the comments, Justice Jawwad adjourned the case till 1:00 pm, saying if anyone has any objection that he should not hear the case then come forward.
Attorney General Salman Butt on behalf of the federation appeared and said: "The federation has no objection to the hearing of this petition by this bench," adding, "The federation not only has full confidence in the judges, hearing the petition, but all the judges of the Supreme Court."
However, Sabir Sakir on behalf of Mubashir Luqman, anchorperson of 'Khara Sach', appeared before the bench and said that the anchorperson had sent him and wanted to engage a counsel in the case. The court noted that there may be justification for this request though, prima facie, it does not appear so but there appears to be some TV talk show aired on May 21, 2014, which may need to be seen as it appears to be relevant in this context.
The bench therefore directed the SC Registrar to obtain the CD of the said programme, while the SC office was ordered to make arrangements for displaying relevant parts of the programme "Kharra Sach" through multimedia in the courtroom and again adjourned the case till 2:00pm.
It is relevant to mention here that till that time no one appeared on behalf Pemra. Two relevant clips of the programme were played in the courtroom on multimedia. In the second clips Aqeel Karim Dhaidi alleged that Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, chief executive of Jang Group, is a relative of Justice Jawwad, therefore he should not hear the case.
On this Justice Jawwad said: "Mr. Dhaidi appears to be unaware that although Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman happens to be the brother of my brother's wife, I do not recall the last time we met, it may have been 20 years ago, 16 years ago or perhaps at some shadi or ghami which I do not recall at present." "It is always for the judge himself to make a determination as to whether or not his relationship with any other person is such that he should not hear a particular case in which such person is a party," the short order said.
It said the Code of Conduct prescribed by the Supreme Judicial Council for judges of the superior courts includes Article 4, which states that a judge should not "act in a case involving his own interest, including those of persons whom he regards and treats as near relatives or close friends." Justice Jawwad said that it is clear from it that he has no basis for regarding or treating Shakeel-ur- Rehman as a near relative.
The order said that in the oath of office of judges of the Supreme Court it is expressly stated that the judge "will not allow [his] personal interest to influence [his] official conduct or [his] official decision". Judges also swear under the Constitution to "do right to all manner of people according to law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will". The Holy Quran in fact directs judges to act fairly, justly and impartially even if they are hearing cases involving their own relatives.
The court noted that the provisions of the Code of Conduct or Oath of Office or the verses from the Holy Quran do not impose a bar on judge from hearing cases unless there is cause under Article 4 of the Code of Conduct. "No such cause exists in this case," it added.
Referring the judgment in CRPs-328 & 329 of 2013 filed by General (Retd) Parvaiz Musharraf, the court observed that it may become very easy for a litigant to avoid appearing before any bench which is not of his choice. He speaks against a judge or such bench directly or through innuendo and thereafter claims that the judge is biased against him and should recuse from the hearing.
Justice referred two incidents in which efforts were made in other cases that he should recuse from the bench hearing the cases. The court said if judges do not deal firmly with such remarks (where unfounded) this may encourage unscrupulous or uninformed elements into saying things, which may erode the standing, respect and credibility of the court. It said the courts are not to succumb to any remark, defamatory or otherwise. It is the conscience of the judge himself, which must determine his decision to sit on a bench or not. "The upshot of the above is that I (Justice Jawwad) do not find any reason whatsoever not to sit on this Bench," he said. The case was adjourned for today (Friday) for further proceedings.