The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a show-cause notice to ARY News host Arshad Sharif for discussing sub-judice matters on his talk show Power Play.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had taken up a suo motu notice regarding the programme's August 28 episode in which an affidavit submitted by former president Asif Ali Zardari regarding his assets was discussed.
"Did Zardari submit a false affidavit in the NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance] case?" was among the questions raised and discussed during the programme.
The TV host, who appeared in court along with Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, was taken to task by the CJP for discussing the case during the show.
"How can you discuss cases being heard in courts [during your programme]?" Justice Nisar asked, addressing Sharif.
He recalled that the top court has also advised the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against inadvertently or intentionally defaming individuals who are subject to accountability inquiries.
"Comments like these [those made in the show] are prejudicial to court proceedings," the CJP remarked, warning Sharif of action against him. He also termed the discussion akin to "interference in court matters".
The top judge also questioned whether the TV programme was "sponsored" by anyone, asking: "On whose direction did you conduct the programme?"
"This is a straightforward [case of a] media trial," observed Justice Ijazul Ahsan.
After hearing all arguments, the court issued a show-cause notice to the ARY News host. Notices were also issued to the attorney general, Pakistan Broadcasters Association and Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra).
The bench directed Pemra to present clips of the programme Power Play in court. The hearing of the case was adjourned until September 12.
Pemra issues show-cause notice to ARY News
Pemra also issued a show-cause notice to ARY News "for telecasting a programme titled Power Play ... [in which a] sub judice case [regarding allegations of] money laundering against a former president of Pakistan."
The authority has directed ARY News to submit a reply within seven days and has warned that in case the TV channel fails to do so, Pemra "shall have the right to initiate ex-parte proceedings against the channel, including suspension of the programme for 30 days."
Furthermore, Pemra has "prohibited discussion on any sub judice matter in any talk show, aired by any TV channel" and has clarified that "discussion on sub judice matters not only amounts to contempt of court but is also in sheer violation of Pemra laws."
Zardari in his affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, had affirmed that he owns neither moveable or immovable property nor any bank account outside Pakistan.
The affidavit was submitted to the apex court in response to a petition moved by Advocate Feroz Shah Gilani, president of the Lawyers Foundation for Justice. The latter has named former presidents retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and Asif Zardari, former attorney general Malik Mohammad Qayyum and the National Accountability Bureau as respondents.
In his petition, Gilani had pleaded that the court order the recovery of huge amounts of public money allegedly wasted by the respondents through unlawful means against the backdrop of the NRO in 2007.