Court censures TV CEO, counsel for absence from hearing

The Supreme Court of Pakistan building.   — AP/file

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court criticised on Monday the conduct of Salman Iqbal, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a private television network, and his counsel and warned of proceedings against them in accordance with the law if they failed to appear in the court on Tuesday to face contempt charges.

A three-judge special court headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal is proceeding against Mr Iqbal and anchorperson Mubashir Lucman for airing a scandalous and defamatory programme against the judiciary. Mr Lucman was present in the court.

The court was to frame contempt charges on Monday over the contents of a talk show, ‘Khara Such’, aired by ARY TV on May 29, in which the anchor had alleged that Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja had close relations with Mir Shakeelur Rehman, the owner of Geo TV network, and the wife of the judge had sold a property in Lahore to the Punjab government.

On Nov 24, the hearing was postponed till Dec 1 on the request of Mr Lucman and also because Advocate Irfan Qadir, representing the two respondents, was not available. But the court had overlooked the absence of the lawyer and Mr Iqbal because the former was attending to his ailing parents and the latter had just reached Karachi from abroad.

But when the bench resumed the hearing on Monday, the CEO and the counsel were again not present in the court.

“We should convict the respondents straight away because they don’t deserve leniency,” Justice Ijaz Chaudhry, a member of the bench said.

“It means they are ridiculing the judiciary by their conduct,” Justice Afzal said.

The court observed that an astounding part of Monday’s proceedings was that neither the CEO and his counsel attended the hearing nor an application was filed to explain the reason for their absence.

Former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Kamran Murtaza, who had come to the court to inform it that Mr Qadir was unable to attend the hearing, requested the bench to adjourn the proceeding till Tuesday. But he said it was embarrassing for him that he was defending absence of the two respondents.

The court said it was postponing the hearing in the larger interest of justice and adjourned the proceedings till Tuesday.

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