ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has conditionally allowed the broadcast of a TV serial depicting the story of a rape victim.
The serial ‘Hadsa’, which began airing on Geo TV on August 21, was banned by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on a complaint that the show was based on the 2020 motorway gang rape case. The show’s producers have denied the allegation.
During the proceedings on Monday, the counsel for the TV channel contended that Pemra had issued a prohibition order on the broadcast over a complaint filed by Barrister Khadija Siddique.
He further contended that no right of hearing was extended to the applicant before passing the order, nor any show-cause notice was served to them.
The lawyer for the electronic media regulator argued the broadcast was restricted as the serial replicated the incident of the Lahore-Sialkot Motorway gang rape.
The plot was highly inappropriate and disturbing and portrayed a negative image of Pakistani citizens, and the regulator was empowered as per Section 27 of the Pemra Ordinance to pass a prohibitory order first and then refer the matter to its Council of Complaints for appropriate recommendations, the lawyer argued.
It is a settled law that every individual has the right to freedom of expression and the right to do lawful trade, business or profession, but in this case, a prohibitory order was passed by Pemra in light of Section 27 and the provision added through Pemra Amendment Act, 2023, he added.
After hearing the arguments, the court suspended Pemra’s prohibitory order and sought an undertaking from the producers not to air the alleged controversial scene in its fifth episode.
In its order, the court noted that the Pemra Ordinance empowered the authority to pass a prohibition order in writing after giving reasons. “Though short reasons have been mentioned in the impugned order, the record reveals that the authority did not afford the right of hearing to the applicant/appellant before passing the impugned order, which is mandated by Article 10-A of the Constitution,” the IHC noted.
The producers of the serial told the court the rape scene, was only shown in the fifth episode, though they reassured the court “this particular scene has been portrayed in a manner consistent with the accepted standards of decency recognised in Pakistani society”.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023