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ISLAMABAD: Hours after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) ordered the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to seal the offices of private television channels located in residential sectors, the Supreme Court suspended the IHC’s order on Monday.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the IHC directed the CDA to take action against certain media houses over the non-conforming use of land as they had not abided by their undertakings to shift their offices to commercial areas by Aug 10.

The IHC order directed the CDA to “ensure the compliance of orders as per undertaking in which applicants [BOL News & Entertainment, Neo News, ARY Media Communication (Pvt) Ltd, Communication Research Strategies (Pvt) Ltd, Afghan TV, Capital TV, the Associated Press and the Roznama Jahan Pakistan and others, if any] were supposed to have vacated the premises by Aug 10, 2018.” The order observed that “despite [the] lapse of almost 40 days, [the] needful has not been done, which is nothing but an attempt to undermine the authority of [the] court.”

Subsequently, Justice Siddiqui directed the deputy commissioner of Islamabad, and the directors enforcement and building control-I, CDA, to implement the court’s order and submit a report on Sept 11 (today).

Counsel says IHC did not provide reasonable time to relocate technical equipment

However, following the IHC’s order, the management of two private television channels – BOL and ARY TV – approached the Supreme Court and obtained relief within six hours. A three-member SC bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard the appeals. The other members of the bench were Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

Insufficient time granted

The counsel of ARY TV, advocate Faisal Hussain Chaudhry, argued before the bench that ARY TV was not party to the litigation and in this case the IHC judge had exercised suo motu powers beyond his scope. He further argued that the IHC did not provide his client reasonable time in which to relocate technical equipment.

Advocate Chaudhry said the CDA’s director enforcement was asked to show written direction of the court but the latter refused and replied that he was acting upon verbal orders.

The counsel pointed out that the IHC had granted lawyers one month’s time in which to vacate the football ground of which they were in occupation, but did not offer such a relaxation to the television channel managements.

Lawyers’ encroachment

On Monday, Justice Siddiqui of the IHC also took up the issue of encroachment on a football ground in Sector F-8 Markaz.

The court order noted that lawyers’ representatives had tried to justify the lawyers’ act in encroaching upon the football ground and raising permanent/temporary structures. “But this court is fully convinced that the act of the lawyers who encroached upon the football ground and raised construction for the purposes of raising chambers is totally illegal, unconstitutional, against the moral values and code of conduct.”

The lawyers’ representatives requested that one month’s time be granted, enabling them to evolve a strategy to have the ground cleared. The court order stated that although the court wanted to give a fortnight’s time only, acceding to the request a one month’s time was granted and the matter has been posted for 10.10.2018. The order added: “It is expected that by showing maximum responsibility and by realising the grace of the profession, the representatives of the lawyers and lawyers themselves shall come up with a positive response, so that any uncalled for situation may be avoided.”

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2018