ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday suspended a decision by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to remand a defamation case against the ARY Network’s chief executive back to the trial court.
On March 20, 2018, the trial court had dismissed a private complaint by Mir Shakilur Rehman, the chief executive of Independent Media Corporation — the owner of Geo TV — against Salman Iqbal, the ARY’s chief executive (CEO). In his complaint, filed on Feb 19, 2014, Mir Shakil had accused the ARY Digital Network of carrying out a smear campaign against him through Khara Such, a talk show, and sought an appropriate remedy.
After recording of cursory evidence, the court of Additional District Judge, Islamabad (IX), summoned the ARY CEO, along with others named in the petition.
Salman Iqbal, the ARY chief, moved an application for dismissal of the complaint. The judge accepted his plea on Jan 11, 2016.
But later the trial court, upon receiving another application, forwarded the complaint to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) through an order on March 20, 2018, with an observation that the offence alleged by the private complaint falls within the purview of the Pemra Ordinance of 2002, and not under the defamation clause — Sections 499 and 500) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).
The Independent Media Corporation (IMC), headed by Mir Shakilur Rehman, challenged the trial court order in the IHC.
The high court allowed the petition and remanded the case back to the trial court with a directive that it record evidence and rule on a legal question whether the PPC is applicable to the case or the Pemra Ordinance.
On Thursday, a two-judge Supreme court bench, headed by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, issued notices to the IMC and Independent Newspaper Corporation, the owners of Jang Group of Newspapers, after granting right to appeal to ARY chief Salman Iqbal and others.
Salman Iqbal, through his lawyer Chaudhry Faisal Hussain, had pleaded with the apex court to set aside the directive issued by the Islamabad High Court to remand the case back to the trial court and restore the March 20, 2018, decision of that court to dismiss the defamation case brought by Mir Shakilur Rehman.
The petition pleaded that the high court’s order suffered from serious legal infirmities and thus liable to be set aside since, in case the trial court comes to the conclusion that the matter falls within the purview of Pemra and referred the matter back to the authority, it would amount to going through the ordeal of facing a fresh trial.
The petition argued that the IHC did not take into account the fact that the trial court had rightfully returned the private complaint for presentation before Pemra.
“The Islamabad High Court has conflated the concept of acquittal, as envisaged under Section 265-K CrPC, with that of return of a private complaint, as ordained by Section 201 of the CrPC,” the petitioner contended.
The trial court had specified in its order that the complaint was being returned to Pemra, the petition said, adding that a reading of Sections 201 and 265-K reveals that the court order was in accordance with the law applicable to the subject.
The petition further referred to a 2017 Supreme Court judgement in a case brought by Syed Mushahid Shah in which it was held that the Special Banking Courts Ordinance of 2001 have an overriding effect and whenever a financial offence was committed within the contemplation of the Ordinance 2001, it could only be tried by the banking courts and no other forum.
Published in Dawn, November 19th, 2021