LHC judge calls for larger bench for petitions against PML-N leaders


LAHORE: Lahore High Court (LHC) Judge Syed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi asked the LHC chief justice to constitute a larger bench to hear the multiple petitions pending against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other PML-N leaders over alleged anti-judiciary tirades, it emerged on Friday.

On Thursday, the judge had directed the secretary of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to appear in person on March 29 to explain the role of the authority in the matter.

According to the court’s written order, Justice Naqvi observed that some other petitions about the same subject were pending adjudication before different benches.

“As the matter pertains to a serious issue, which is of public importance,” the judge referred the matter to LHC chief justice with a request to constitute a larger bench in order to avoid “conflicting judgements”.

The judge made the request while hearing a petition filed by Advocate Munir Ahmad seeking contempt proceedings against Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, and federal and provincial ministers of the PML-N over alleged anti-judiciary speeches.

Justice Naqvi observed that the people facing charges of corruption had been attacking the institution of the judiciary in the name of criticism. The judge also took exemption to the speeches of State Minister for Interior Talal Chaudhry and observed that such speeches amounted to treason.

Representing the petitioner, Advocate Azhar Siddique argued that the PML-N leadership had been making derogatory speeches against the judges of the Supreme Court (SC) since the verdict of Sharif’s disqualification in Panama Papers case was announced.

He said PEMRA had been wilfully allowing broadcast of hate speeches and defamatory and contemptuous remarks on television channels, as it took no action to enforce its code of conduct.

The counsel said that ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif was now an ordinary citizen as he neither held any public office nor was he a member of any political party in wake of the disqualification judgment. He further said that Nawaz Sharif and other leaders of PML-N had been trying to portray the SC’s judgment as wrong and prejudiced.

He argued that PEMRA had badly failed to act as an independent regulator and had rather become a subordinate body of the government.

Advocate Siddique said that PEMRA was bound to perform its duties with due diligence in order to protect the state institutions and the dignity and integrity of courts. PEMRA had the authority to restrain media houses from airing anything against the laws and offensive to state institutions, he added.

The PML-N had stepped up its criticism of the judiciary in the aftermath of Panama Papers case, especially targeting the five-member bench that ousted Nawaz Sharif.