The Sindh High Court Friday declared delegated power to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) chairman for suspension of television channel licence illegal on the grounds that regulatory body head is not competent for suspension of broadcast media licences in absence of framing rules.
Pakistan Broadcasting Association’s counsel Advocate Supreme Court Faisal Siddiqui has invoked jurisdiction of the SHC seeking the court declaration that the Pemra chairman is not competent to suspend televisions licence when rules have not been framed to exercise such power.
A divisional bench of the SHC comprising Justices Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Arshad Hussain Khan on Friday announced verdict in the matter. “We declare that the powers of Pemra under section 30 Pemra could not be delegated to Chairman or any other official of Pemra by dint of section 13 Pemra ordinance for suspension of broadcast media licences without framing of rules,”, the author judge Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar said in the verdict.
Talking to TLTP, Advocate Umer Ijaz Gilani said in a judgement issued Friday, the SHC has declared the practice of “delegation sans rules” illegal. He expressed, “The idea is that if Parliament has given powers to a collegiate body, then it should be exercised by the collegium in a deliberative manner, and not be a single dictatorial head of the institution acting on his own”.
“Far too many heads of institutions exercise institutional powers as if they were personal powers. Such excessive and unregulated delegation goes against the very idea of institution-building”. says Advocate High Court Umer Ijaz Gilani
He was of the view that if at all some delegation of powers from an institution to person has to be done, it should be done in a measured manner through published rules. Advocate Gilani informed the verdict represents a major advancement in Pakistani administrative law because the issue it deals with, is chronic.
It is pertinent to mention that as there are a number of regulatory bodies in the country whose heads are exercising power illegally in light of the SHC verdict. Gilani informed, “Far too many heads of institutions exercise institutional powers as if they were personal powers. Such excessive and unregulated delegation goes against the very idea of institution-building”.
Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar said in the verdict, “Hence forth, the decision of Authority to this extent conveyed by minutes dates 24th April 2020 is also declared null and void. Consequently all action taken by the chairman pursuant to the delegated powers of suspension of broadcast licenses are struck down.”
It has been reported that earlier in March, the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) expressed concern over the PEMRA directive regarding reporting of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) activities and termed it as a “transgression of the canons of press freedom and free speech”. The CPNE asserted that PEMRA has, through this directive, barred the TV channel administrations from airing all analysis and comments regarding NAB activities in their current affairs programmes and news bulletins.
The CPNE declared the PEMRA directive a grave violation of Article 19 and sub-clause 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan that guarantees the common citizen’s inalienable right to information.
The writer heads a leading news wire service ‘The Law Today Pakistan’ commonly known as TLTP. He has a special focus on news relating to superior courts adjudication, access to right of information, civil, political, social and economic rights under the approach that existing cyber regime realization ensures procedural fairness in administrative law. He can be reached at email@example.com