A constitutional petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking direction to the government to prepare and implement a specific code of conduct prohibiting defamation against state institutions and officials in line with Article 19 of the constitution.
The petition was filed by six individuals belonging to different cities under Article 184 (3) of the constitution, wherein the federal government, Pakistan Electronic and Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) and the Election Commission of Pakistan are made respondents.
It has been argued in the petition that the freedom of expression according to Article 19 is "limited". It furthered that there are some restrictions placed on speech under the article, hence the government should be ordered to prepare a code of conduct to stop "the series of insulting statements" against state institutions.
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The petition requested the SC to direct the incumbent government to review all existing laws regulating speech and take appropriate measures to prohibit institutional defamation and where necessary enact legislation in line with Article 19 of the 1973 Constitution.
The petition prayed the apex court to declare that unequal and disparate regulation of speech on various media (broadcast, digital and print) is discriminatory and violative of Articles 19 and 25 of the constitution.
It contended that where state institutions are maligned and defamed, not only are their functions hindered but many fundamental rights of the ordinary citizens of Pakistan guaranteed under the constitution are adversely affected.
"It may be noted that the defamation of public servants and government functionaries or any individual in the service of Pakistan would serve to undermine public confidence in such individuals and, therefore, deter highly qualified individuals from entering into the service of Pakistan and hinder those already serving from performing their duties at the highest level," it added.
The petition has been filed in light of recent cases of contempt of court along with remarks on the army and other state institutions.
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Last week, while addressing a public rally in Faisalabad, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief (PTI) Imran Khan alleged that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari wanted to appoint the army chief of their choice because if a “strong and patriotic army chief” came, they would be questioned about their loot.
Prior to that, Imran had allegedly threatened the inspector general and deputy inspector general of Islamabad, and a female additional sessions court judge of the federal capital during a protest rally in Islamabad in August.
In relation to the former premier's statement against the female judge, a contempt of court case is being heard at the Islamabad High Court, while an anti-terrorism court is hearing a case on terrorism charges against Imran.