By Amjad Javaid Hashmi
Table of Contents
In a landmark legal development, the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled in the Ammad Yousaf case (ARY Director) in its judgment on 14-09-2023 in criminal petition No. 225 of 2023 that the governmental functionaries and the courts are constitutionally obliged to protect individual rights, especially the freedom of speech, and ensuring a fair trial. This judgment sheds light on the procedural intricacies involved under sections 196, 249A, 265K, and 265D of CrPC in criminal cases and underscores the need for authorities to exercise their powers judiciously.
Supreme Court The case in question involved a Pakistani news channel, ARY News, which telecasted a live program on August 8, 2022. During the program, a guest, Shahbaz Gill, expressed his views in response to a question. These views, however, led to the registration of a First Information Report (FIR) against him and other unknown individuals.
The petitioner, Ammad Yousaf, who served as the Director of ARY News Desk in Karachi, became embroiled in the case during the investigation. The magistrate who initiated the FIR sought permission from the Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad Capital Territory and eventually obtained permission from the Secretary of the Ministry of Interior to proceed with the case.
Key Points of the Supreme Court Judgment:
- Ensuring a Just and Fair Trial: Supreme Court The judgment underscores the importance of a just and fair trial for all parties involved, be it the accused, the prosecution, or the complainant. It highlights the mandatory nature of the provisions in Chapter XXII-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which lays down the procedural framework for criminal cases.
- Framing of Charges: Section 265-D of the CrPC is a critical component of the criminal justice system. It mandates that before charges are framed, the court must consider the FIR, police report, documents, and witness statements to determine jurisdiction and establish prima facie grounds for proceeding with the trial.
- Special Procedure for Certain Offenses: The judgment clarifies that certain offenses mentioned in the FIR fall under section 196 of the CrPC, which relates to offenses against the State. These offenses require a unique procedure for prosecution. Notably, no court can take cognizance of such offenses unless a complaint is filed by the Federal Government, Provincial Government, or an officer authorized by them.
- Delegatus Non-Potest Delegare: The Latin legal maxim “Delegatus Non-Potest Delegate” is invoked, emphasizing that a person or entity to whom power or authority is delegated cannot further delegate that power unless expressly permitted by law or the original delegation.
- Jurisdiction and Authorization: The judgment critically examines the actions of the authorities in this case, especially the Secretary’s role in authorizing the registration of the FIR. It highlights that the Secretary’s authority cannot be redelegated, and the Court ultimately questions the basis for initiating the case.
- Rights and Democracy: The judgment emphasizes the importance of protecting fundamental rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the right to a fair trial. It underscores the significance of a democratic government in promoting tolerance, political and social justice, and healthy criticism.
- Protection against Malicious Prosecution: The Court expresses concern about the misuse of authority by the government to initiate malicious and frivolous prosecutions, especially against politicians, political activists, media persons, and human rights activists. It warns that such actions can lead to fear, insecurity, and mistrust in society.
- Quashing of Proceedings: Ultimately, the judgment finds that the Trial Court lacked jurisdiction to take cognizance of certain offenses, primarily due to the absence of a proper complaint from a competent authority. The Court, therefore, quashes the proceedings initiated against the petitioner and acquits him from the case.
This landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of upholding constitutional principles and individual rights. It calls for a more responsible exercise of authority to prevent unjust and frivolous prosecutions. This authoritative judgment reinforces the notion that democracy thrives when citizens can freely express their views and criticism, and when the state respects and safeguards their rights, even in the face of differing opinions and ideas.