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KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday ordered Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to immediately restore ARY News transmission across the country. The court has also restrained Pemra from suspending or revoking the licence of the TV channel till the next hearing.

ARY News went off air in many parts of the country on Sunday evening without any prior notice by the competent authorities. In a 10-page interim order, the court also suspended the show-cause notice issued to ARY News by Pemra.

In the interim order, SHC has not only restored the transmission of ARY News but also restrained Pemra from suspending or revoking the license of ARY News channel extending five days’ time to ARY News to submit reply of showcause notice issued by Pemra over PTI spokesperson’s statement.

The private TV channel however undertook that it will not permit PTI spokesperson Shahbaz Gill to appear on ARY News subject to further order passed by the court or to post his views thereon. The interim order came on a lawsuit filed by ARY News against issuance of showcause notice by the Pemra.

Plaintiff counsel Abid S Zuberi, Ayan Mustafa Memon and Amna Khalili submitted that ARY News transmission was removed from the air as well from the cable TV on verbal instructions of the Pemra.

Abid S Zuberi submitted that the Pemra issues showcause notice over a breaking news that was aired at TV where newscaster referred to an old story aired on June 27 in which PTI spokesperson Shahbaz Gill was in conversation.

He submitted that the Pemra issued two-day time to reply to the factual controversy as well as legal aspects associated herewith threatening initiation of proceedings under the Pemra laws.

He submitted that impugned showcause notice has not been issued by the competent authority under the Pemra Ordinance and the same was not maintainable.

Zuberi submitted that the TV channel runs programs but it was not necessarily that the channel itself agrees to the statements or views expressed by any of the participants or the guests, therefore the impugned action issued by the Pemra is itself unwarranted under the law.

He submitted that no chairman of the Pemra has been appointed yet nor the 12 members of its committee is in existence, therefore the authority under section 6 and 8 of the Pemra Ordinance was not in existence and no hearing could be taken place if notice is considered truth.

Pemra counsel Kashif Hanif submitted that the Pemra has not passed an order for banning the channel nor issued any direction to the cable operators to remove the channel.

He submitted that the Pemra has issued showcause notice to the plaintiff channel under the Pemra television broadcasting rules.

The SHC single bench headed by Justice Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan after preliminary hearing of the lawsuit issued notice to the Pemra.

The court observed that the Pemra will be at liberty to consider submission of the plaintiff against showcause notice and proceed with the matter in accordance with the law however no final order shall be passed till next date of hearing in subject matter.

The court observed that since the Pemra stated that no direction has been issued with regard to banning or off airing plaintiff channel the Pemra and other defendants are directed to restore as soon as possible ARY News channel on the same number or position as it were on August 7 without any loss of time.

The court has issued notice to the Pemra and the Deputy Attorney General and adjourned the hearing until August 17, 2022.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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