ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry has drawn the attention of Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa towards a lack of implementation of laws related to defamation in the country and requested him to take up the matter in the next meeting of the National Judicial Policy Making Committee.
The request has been made by the information minister through a letter sent to the chief justice through the registrar of the Supreme Court. In the letter, the minister has termed the issue a “matter of great public importance” which needs urgent attention.
Copies of the letter have also been sent to the chief justices of all high courts in the country and to the federal law secretary.
The minister has written in the letter that “the size of media – print, electronic as well as digital – has gone exponentially in Pakistan over the past few years” and made deep ingresses in society, impacting all the segments.
He regretted that “unfortunately” the existing laws related to defamation, libel and tort have not been implemented the way they should have been thus creating hurdles in the accountability of offenders, “a vast majority of whom have failed to meet the justice they deserved”.
He has also suggested that “dedicated judges” may be designated in every city and district of the country.
Mr Chaudhry, who is a lawyer by profession, has proposed to the chief justice that four judges may be appointed for such cases in districts having population of five million or more. He has further suggested appointment of two judges in districts having population of 2.5m or more and one dedicated judge in districts with population of less than 2.5m.
The minister has also requested the chief justice that the procedure of filing complaints and submitting evidence should be simplified with suitable amendments to relevant rules. The rules, he said, should be changed to allow people to lodge complaints electronically, preferably through modern devices.
Evidence recording through video, which is already provided in law, must be enforced, writes the minister, requesting chief justices of all the high courts to ensure implementation in areas of their jurisdiction.
When contacted, the minister said he had suggested these steps to put an effective check against malicious accusations and baseless fake news.
Responding to a question, Mr Chaudhry said there was no need for new legislation and there was only a need to effectively implement the existing laws.
He was of the view that the appointment of dedicated judges for this purpose could be made simply through changes in the rules. He said that at present he did not have exact number of defamation cases pending before courts.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2019