SC throws out Pemra plea on powers to suspend licences.

ISLAMABAD -- The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal filed by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority against a Sindh High Court's decision that had declared as illegal the delegation of powers to the Pemra chairman of suspending the broadcast media licences without framing any rules.

The SC bench - headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and also comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi - took up the appeal moved by Barrister Ahmed Pervaiz on behalf of Pemra.

Senior counsel Faisal Siddiqi, who represented the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA), told Dawn after the hearing he argued that suspension of the licence even for a short while could destroy the business of a news channel and would lead to its closure.

He contended that the delegation of such powers solely to the chairman desAtroys the remedy enjoyed by the TV channels to an independent regulatory body. He said delegation of such powers created the dictatorship of Pemra chairman and destroyed the fundamental rights under Article 19 (right to freedom of speech) and 19A (right of information) of the Constitution.

At its 156th meeting held on May 24, 2020, Pemra conferred its authority to suspend the broadcast licences of any channel on any violation of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 to its chairman by making him sole authority to decide the issue of suspension. In pursuant to this delegation, the Pemra chairman arbitrarily suspended the broadcast licences of several channels.

The PBA challenged the delegation of such powers to Pemra chairman before the SHC.

On Aug 13, 2021, a division bench of the high court, headed by then Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, declared this delegation of suspension such powers to the Pemra chairman as illegal and even directed that unless rules structuring the delegated discretion were framed, no such delegation to the Pemra chief could be given.

Pemra challenged the high court's deAAcision before the Supreme Court and the appeal came up for hearing on Thursday.

The counsel for regulator argued that...

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