SC upholds SHC decision barring Pemra

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Suspending TV channel licences

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a high court judgement revoking the suspension of broadcast media licences by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’s (Pemra).

A three-member SC bench, headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and also comprising Justices Munib Akhtar and Sayyed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi, issued the verdict on the authority’s plea challenging the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) 2021 ruling.

In its ruling last year, the SHC had held that the power to suspend broadcast media licences contained in Section 30 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 could not be delegated to the authority’s chairman or any official without framing rules.

The ruling was issued on a plea filed by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA).

During Thursady’s hearing, Justice Akhtar noted that the power to suspend licences could be given to the Pemra head but questioned under what rules and laws it would be delegated.

“Can the authority (Pemra) give the powers to hire or dismiss a grade three officer?” he asked.

The PBA’s counsel, Faisal Siddiqui, noted that the Pemra chairperson had shut down television channels four times during a single month. “If a channel is closed for 10 days, it sees its end,” he contended.

Justice Ahsan observed that it was necessary to frame the relevant rules. “Who they empower is a different matter,” he added.

The judge further observed that the rules had not been framed for the past 20 years.

“And it has been a year since the high court’s judgement. Still, the rules have not been devised,” he said.

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