Islamabad - The Islamabad High Court yesterday deferred the hearing of a petition of a private television channel challenging Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s decision to ban its programme ‘Live With Dr Shahid Masood’ for 45 days.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb conducted hearing of the petition of ARY Communications challenging Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s decision to ban its programme for allegedly casting aspersions about chief justice Sindh High Court and adjourned the proceedings till Tuesday (today).

During the hearing, ARY’s counsel Advocate Faisal Hussain Chaudhry concluded his arguments while PEMRA’s counsel Ali Gilani Advocate will resume his arguments on Tuesday (today).

The PEMRA submitted its written reply before the court and said it has also issued 40 advices and 16 warnings to different television channels.

The ARY’s counsel contended before the court that PEMRA does not have suo moto powers and it could only act if there is a complaint filed with the authority by a person. Without any complaint PEMRA’s proceedings against any TV channel were illegal, the counsel further said.

He continued that PEMRA’s council of complaint has no authority to recommend proceedings against any TV channel unless it receives a complaint. Freedom of expression is the basic right under article 19 of the constitution. Dr Shahid Masoon analysed a particular issue and gave his personal opinion that could be wrong as well.   At this, the IHC bench remarked if a TV analyst does not have proper information with respect to a particular issue, he/she should not talk about the same. When he has clear information, he can discuss it.

According to PEMRA, a show-cause notice was issued on July 19 and the channel was given seven days to respond, but the reply received on July 23 was “unprofessional” and no apology was tendered. The counsel for ARY Advocate Faisal Hussain contended that law requires thing to be done in particular manner.

The ARY adopted that PEMRA did not hear its version and unilaterally imposed ban of 45 days. It further submitted that the respondents disregarded statement of the appellant without mentioning any lawful reason and failed to appraise the contentions raised therein whereas the stance adopted by the respondents, was considered appropriate without looking into its veracity and plausibility.

It added that the impugned order was passed without ascertaining the actual and factual position that is result of misreading and non-reading.

The petitioner stated that by stopping the prime time show for 45 days regulating authority has indirectly imposed fine to the petitioner and it will cause millions of rupees loss to the petitioner.

The counsel contended that Chairman PEMRA does not have privilege of suo moto action and any action could be initiated either on the complaint filed by a person or organisation from the public at large, he said.

He continued that moreover imposing a ban on television show does not come under the preview of the council of complaints.

Therefore, he prayed to the court to set aside PEMRA order, declaring it unlawful and void.