CJP hints at revoking IPPs agreements

| Warns of action against corrupt elements in power sector | Says SC won’t allow ‘damaging’ Indian content on TV

ISLAMABAD  -   Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar Wednesday warned that corruption would not be tolerated in the power sector and a strict action will be taken against the corrupt elements.

The CJP was heading a three-judge bench, which heard a suo moto case regarding non-provision of electricity by the Independent Power Producers (IPPs) despite receiving excessive payments from the government.

During the course of proceedings, Justice Ijazul Hasan observed that 10 IPPs had received additional amount of Rs159 million each but they were not producing the electricity.

Power Decision secretary apprised the court that according to an agreement between the government and the IPPs, payments were to be made to the latter even if they were not generating electricity.

The chief justice remarked that millions of rupees of the nation had been doled out to the IPPs irrespective of the fact that as to whether they generated electricity or not. Elsewhere in the world, such agreements were being cancelled, he added.

He asked about the persons who had made the agreements, warning that action would be taken against the corrupt.

“Agreements with IPPs have become a noose around our necks. We don’t know who those people were who made these agreements. Whether electricity was provided or not, money was given. These people were darlings,” the chief justice remarked.

The CJP remarked that the circular debt had risen to billions of rupees. Neither the people nor industries were getting electricity but the IPPs keep getting money, he added.

Justice Faisal Arab questioned a power company counsel that why they did not supply electricity as the government faced a shortfall of electricity.

The counsel responded that the National Power Construction Corporation (NPCC) determines the demand and then the IPPs produced electricity as per its requisition.

The CJP told the Power Division secretary that he wanted to understand the case [in depth]. “You must have prepared a presentation for the prime minister,” he added.

Subsequently, the apex court summoned Federal Minister for Power Omar Ayub on the next date of hearing.

On Jan 5, the chief justice had taken notice of excessive payments made to the IPPs. He observed that the court had been told that excessive payments were made to IPPs in connection with circular debt and apparently it was a matter of $1.5 billion.

Indian content on TV

Heading a three-judge bench Chief Justice Saqib Nisar on Wednesday said that the Supreme Court will not allow Indian content on Pakistani television channels as it “damages our culture”.

The bench was hearing an appeal filed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) against high courts’ decision to ban the broadcast of Indian content on TV channels in the country.

Pemra counsel Zafar Iqbal Kalanauri apprised the bench that foreign content had been banned on court orders before a high court issued a stay order against it.

Pemra Chairman Saleem Baig told the court that as much as 65 percent of the content shown on Filmazia channel is foreign and that amount sometimes surges to 80 percent.

“We will not allow Indian content to be aired on [Pakistani] channels,” the CJP remarked.

When Pemra counsel said that Filmazia is not a news but entertainment channel and it does not do any propaganda, Justice Saqib countered him saying, “It is, however, damaging our culture”.

The judge said the Pakistan Broadcasters Association’s counsel Faisal Siddiqui is not in attendance and the court “cannot pass a judgment without hearing him”.

The hearing was adjourned until the first week of February.

Pemra had imposed a ban on airing Indian content on local television and FM radio channels in 2016 and the decision was largely seen as a tit-for-tat move after similar actions were taken by some channels and the entertainment industry in India against Pakistani content and artists.

In 2017, the Lahore High Court had lifted the Pemra-imposed ban, saying the federal government had no objections regarding the same. But in October 2018, the Supreme Court reinstated the ban, setting aside the LHC orders.

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