SC issues notices to provincial AGs in FIRs against Geo

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday directed the Attorney General for Pakistan to examine the issue of multiple FIRs, lodged across the country against the Geo Television in the light of law and give his opinion on the next date of hearing as to whether or not the court could proceed with the instant matter.

A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Mushir Alam heard the constitutional petition filed by the Independent Media Corporation (IMC) on behalf of Geo Television Network for consolidation of dozens of FIRs lodged against it across the country.

The court also issued notices to all the advocates general of the four provinces directing them to assist it in the instant matter after the Attorney General suggested to the court that being the provincial matter, advocates general of the four provinces should be asked to assist the court in the instant matter.

Appearing on notice, Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt informed the court that the matter pertaining to FIRs lodged across the country against the Geo TV was being under investigation. He, however, said that as the matter related to the provinces where complaints had been lodged against Geo TV, therefore, it would be appropriate that advocates general of the four provinces should be asked to assist the court in this regard.

Meanwhile, the court issued notices to advocates general of the four provinces to appear before the court and assist it in the instant matter and adjourned the hearing for a week.

Earlier, during the course of hearing, the court asked Muhammad Akram Sheikh, the counsel for Geo Television to invoke the jurisdiction of learned high court for being the simple case of criminal jurisdiction.

Muhammad Akram Sheikh, however, contended that it was the matter of high public importance as the country’s popular TV channel had been blocked which is violation of Article 19 of the Constitution. He said that being a case of public importance, the petition was filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution as billions of people had been deprived of watching the popular TV channel.

He informed the court that over 39 FIRs had been lodged against Geo Television in the four provinces. He requested the court to consolidate all these FIRs for eventual quashing of proceedings on them.

He said that Article 19 ensures freedom of speech and expression while Article 10-A gives the right of fair trial to his client. He pleaded that the instant case fell in the jurisdiction of Article 184(3) of the Constitution for being public importance.

In its petition, the Independent Media Corporation had prayed to the apex court to order the law enforcement and investigation agencies and lower courts all over the country to submit copies of all the criminal complaints, FIRs and petitions filed under Section 22A that contained allegations of blasphemy regarding the show.

It had further requested to issue directives for consolidation of all FIRs that might have been registered in various parts of the country and to restrain the law enforcing and investigating agencies from registering any new case, but to forward all pending and new FIRs containing allegations of blasphemy before the Supreme Court for eventual quashing of proceedings on them.

The petitioner had also requested to order the relevant law-enforcing agencies in all the provinces to take required steps for protection of the petitioners, management and staff of the Geo, Jang Group, along with their offices all over the country.

Federal government through secretary interior, chief secretaries of the four provincial governments and chief commissioner Islamabad have been made as respondents in the instant petition.

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