The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday slapped a temporary ban on airing of ‘anti-judiciary’ speeches by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and other leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). A full bench of the high court headed by Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi and comprising Justice Masood Jahangir and Justice Atir Mahmoud resumed hearing of 27 miscellaneous contempt petitions. The court referred the petitions to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), granting it 15 days to remove all anti-judiciary content in addition to deciding on the petitions. Justice Mazahir Ali Naqvi ruled that the court will personally monitor PEMRA’s conduct in the next two weeks to see how it implements the court order. The high court also directed all authorities concerned to ensure that no contemptuous speech is broadcast on any TV channel in the next 15 days. During the proceedings, the PEMRA was criticized for dismissing petitions highlighting ‘anti-judiciary’ remarks. The counsel for the petitioners informed the court that PEMRA did not take any action over petitions filed against ‘anti-judiciary’ speeches by some political leaders. Justice Naqvi remarked that while Article 19 of the constitution allowed fair criticism of judiciary, not everyone can be permitted to criticise the court decisions just for the sake of exercising their right to criticise. He said that it makes sense for a lawyer or a legal expert only to dwell on the judicial verdicts. Drawing attention to Article 68 of the constitution, Justice Naqvi said it even prevented the parliament from criticizing the judiciary and its decisions. “A person dissatisfied at a verdict should file a review petition,” he added. Stressing that his client was being subjected to baseless criticism, PEMRA counsel Salman Akram Raja said the authority had used its powers to decide on the issue. Observing that PEMRA had dismissed the petition on technical grounds, the bench inquired if the verdict should be taken as a green signal for speeches against the judiciary. PEMRA chose not to stop the ‘anti-judicary’ remarks, said Justice Mehmood. “The authority may have committed a minor mistake by dismissing the petition,” replied Raja. “This is not a minor mistake,” the bench observed. “Instead of taking action, PEMRA sought advice from judiciary. Should publishing of such a notice be considered a minor mistake?” Noting that the notice did not prove the authority had failed in performance of its duties, Justice Jahangir stressed that it was not fulfilling its responsibilities. PEMRA’s counsel admitted that the move was a mistake. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif’s counsel AK Dogar again raised objections to the inclusion of Justice Naqvi in the bench. “The judge authored the order against Nawaz Sharif allowing no chance of defence,” the application filed by Dogar reads. It added that the remarks caused stress to his client after which he expects no fair treatment at the hands of Justice Naqvi. However, the bench dismissed the defense counsel’s reservations. Published in Daily Times, April 17th 2018.