The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered that all ice cream production units of Gourmet Foods across Punjab be sealed and all other edible products of the company be assessed for quality checks.
Hearing an application filed by the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) at the apex court's Lahore registry, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar issued the orders after he was informed that harmful bacteria were discovered in samples of ice cream produced by Gourmet. The existing stock of the product available at Gourmet outlets has already been seized and disposed of by the authority.
The product is among 47 brands of ice cream and frozen desserts that the PFA declared unfit for human consumption on Saturday.
PFA Director General Muhammad Usman in his application complained that GNN news channel, which is owned by the Gourmet group, had started a "character assassination" campaign against him after the operation against the brand's ice cream was carried out.
At this, Justice Nisar remarked that such a TV campaign was tantamount to contempt of court and warned: "Why don't [we] order the shut down of GNN for a few days or permanently?"
But instead of ordering closure of the news outlet, the chief justice ordered the owners of Gourmet Foods and GNN to appear before the court tomorrow. The director general of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority was also ordered to be present.
What angered the top judge the most, however, was a call that he received on behalf of Gourmet, presumably to ask the chief justice to extend favour or show leniency to the company.
"How dare you make sifarish [request for favourable treatment] to me?" Justice Nisar asked GNN's bureau chief Khalid Qayyum, who was present at the hearing.
"What kind of people are you to have a sifarishi call made to me late at night?" the judge thundered, warning of "consequences" against persons indirectly seeking favourable treatment from the court.
He said it appeared that the channel had been set up to "safeguard" other businesses of the company.
Justice Nisar subsequently ordered authorities to examine all products of Gourmet Foods to check their quality.