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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court held in abeyance Justice Qazi Faez Isa's order on harassment and intimidation of journalists, saying it is inappropriate to implement the order.

A five-member larger bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Qazi Muhammad Ameen, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, on Monday, assembled to provide clarity in respect of invocation of the apex court's suo motu jurisdiction.

A two-judge bench of Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail , after taking a suo moto on the applications of the Press Association of the Supreme Court and five working journalists, had on August 20 issued notices to the federal and provincial government authorities and law officers of the federation and provinces law officers to file a report on the alleged harassment of the journalists by the FIA.

The bench also directed the SC Office to fix the matter before the same bench on 26-08-21.

The SC order said that "at the moment, the judicial order dated 20.08.2021 directing notice to and reports from several federal government authorities is in the field. On account of the question now before the Court, which goes to the root of the jurisdiction, it is inappropriate to implement the said order because that may obscure and unsettle the practice of the Court for invoking its suo motu jurisdiction resulting in needless uncertainty and controversy with attendant consequences".

The order also said that "it must be borne in mind that notwithstanding an important question raised before the Court by the applicant journalists, we are neither in a position nor intend to consider their substantive grievance in the exercise of our suo motu jurisdiction at this stage. The only aspect of the case that is presently under our consideration is the manner and procedure, whereby, the suo moto jurisdiction is to be invoked and in particular whether, and if so how, such action may be initiated at the instance or on the recommendation of a learned bench of this Court."

"There is a settled practice of this Court regarding the entertainment of suo moto actions on the recommendation made by benches of the Court during judicial proceedings pending before them. This case is different because no judicial proceeding was pending before the learned bench on 20.08.2021 regarding the grievances or concerns of journalists. Rather the order was passed on a fresh unregistered application handed over and entertained in Court. It is important that the original constitutional jurisdiction of the Court under Article 184(3) read with its powers under Article 187 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Constitution) is invoked under a procedural scheme that lends credibility, certainty and consistency to the substantive proceedings that follow in the exercise of that jurisdiction. The Court has a discernible settled practice regarding the procedural issue of how suo motu motions may be entertained by the Court. In contrast, however, the order dated 20.08.2021, prima facie, makes a departure from the norms of the applicable procedural practice. Taking into account the distinction between the invocation of the jurisdiction of the Court on the one hand and the exercise thereof on the other, the question arises: How is the suo motu jurisdiction of the Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution to be invoked? In the light of the answer to this question the propriety, manner and extent to which the order dated 20.08.2021 can be implemented by the office is another question that needs to be addressed. We would like to hear the principal stakeholders who are called upon to assist the Court in matters of jurisdiction and law, namely, the attorney general for Pakistan, the president of the SCBA and the vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council. We would also invite assistance of the learned counsel of the applicant journalists who have brought their grievance to the Court," according to SC.

The bench adjourned the hearing until 25th August, and said in the meanwhile, the order of 20th August shall remain in abeyance.

Earlier, SCBA President Lateef Afridi appeared before the bench and said that lawyers feel that there is division in the apex court. "We want a united Supreme Court," he added.

However, Justice Bandial remarked that there is a difference of opinion among the SC judges but there are no differences.

"However with your [SCBA president] satisfaction, we will sit together," said Justice Bandial.

Afridi also requested the bench to form a full court to hear this matter, to which Justice Bandial said that all judges are not available during the current week.

The judge further noted that according to the division bench's direction, the same bench would hear the journalists' protection case on August 26 but that bench is not available, and added that they want to protect the rights of the journalists in accordance with the law.

Justice Bandial also asked whether the applicant could approach the bench directly.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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