ISLAMABAD: The Sup­reme Court on Wednesday ordered de-sealing of the existing Sukkur Press Club and directed the authorities concerned to provide a suitable alternative place for setting up facilities for media personnel of the area.

A three-judge bench headed by acting Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed which took up a dispute between Sukkur Municipal Corporation and the local press club also suspended the April 24 order of the Sindh High Court’s Sukkur bench which had allowed the corporation to get the press club vacated within 48 hours.

The corporation intends to build a fish aquarium at the premises which currently housed the press club. In its order the Supreme Court observed that the April 24 high court order was in clear conflict with the earlier directions of the apex court to provide alternative place for the club.

The apex court also appointed senior counsel Yousuf Leghari to come up with a suitable resolution of the dispute. None of the government officials would have any authority to commit any excess and more so when the apex court had already restrained them, said the court.

The acting chief justice was visibly disturbed over the manner with which the journalists had been forced out of the premises and they set up a camp outside the club’s gates to protest against the highhandedness of the authorities.

During the hearing Sukkur Mayor Barrister Arsalan Sheikh also drew the court’s attention towards a vilification campaign against him on social media by a relative of the office-bearers of the press club and said they had damaged his reputation.

At this the court expressed its disappointment and asked Yousuf Laghari, also a senior member representing the Pakistan Bar Council in the Judicial Commission, to intervene and examine the entire matter to ensure that justice was done.

Mr Leghari would have the authority to suggest what action might be taken against the offender after assessing the situation. It could translate into registration of FIR against the culprit for running the campaign or filing of a civil suit for damages, he said.

The court ordered immediate cessation of the campaign against the Sukkur mayor and cautioned that in case of violation of the court order, the Supreme Court would intervene to take appropriate action against the violators.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2019