Mr. Justice Faisal Zaman Khan in his judgment has decided the issue regarding cancellation of newspaper declaration under Press Newspaper Agencies and Registration of Books Ordinance 2002, in Press Civil Appeal No. 651 of 2016.
1. This appeal under Section 20 of the Press Newspaper Agencies and Registration of Books Ordinance, 2002 (Ordinance) is directed against orders dated 29.12.2015 and 20.04.2016 passed by the respondent, whereby declaration given in favour of “Daily Naya Andaz” and Al-mir Printing Press has been cancelled.
2. Succinctly, the facts of the case are that appellant who is the Chief Editor of “Daily Naya Andaz” published a news item qua an incident involving desecration of Holy Quran, whereupon, agitation was held in Sarai Alamgir.
3. In pursuance of this news item, a show cause notice dated 03.12.2015 was issued by the respondent to the appellant, which was duly replied, whereafter, through order dated 29.12.2015 declaration issued in favour of the appellant under the Ordinance was cancelled.
4. Aggrieved by the afore-noted order, Press Civil Appeal No.05/2016 was filed before this Court, which was disposed of on 23.02.2016 and the matter was referred to the respondent for reconsideration, whereupon, order dated 20.04.2016 has been passed hence this appeal.
5. Learned counsel for the appellant submits that on information provided by the District Information Officer, Gujrat, the afore-noted news item was published, therefore, the appellant is not at fault. He further submits that all other local news papers also published the same news item however none have been proceeded against but for the appellant. Lastly, he submits that in furtherance of the afore-noted incident, a criminal case was registered whereupon accused have been arrested, therefore, this cannot be held that the news item published by the appellant had no veracity.
6. Oppose to the above, learned Law Officer submits that the reply to the show cause notice would show that appellant accepts that the news item has been published by his employee without looking into its repercussion, therefore, he may be pardoned. He further submits that as the appellant could not give any plausible explanation qua his acts, therefore, respondent rightly passed the impugned orders.
Press Civil Appeal No.651 of 2016 3
7. Arguments heard. Record perused.
8. At the very outset, it shall be imperative for this Court to look up to the aspect of assumption of jurisdiction by the respondent qua cancellation of declaration.
9. A declaration can be cancelled under section 19 of the Ordinance which for convenience is reproduced below:
“19. Cancellation of declaration: – (1) On the application of the Press Registrar either suo moto or based on the information through any person, the District Co-ordination Officer or, where the District Government has not come into being, the Deputy Commissioner empowered to authenticate a declaration under this Ordinance, is of opinion that any declaration made in respect of a newspaper should be cancelled, he may, after giving the person concerned an opportunity of showing cause against the action proposed to be taken, hold an enquiry into the matter and if, after considering the cause, if any, shown by such parties and after giving them reasonable opportunity of being heard, he is satisfied that;
(a) the news paper, in respect of which the declaration has been made is being published in contravention of the provisions of this Ordinance or rules made their under; or
(b) the newspaper mentioned in the declaration bears a title which is the same as or similar to, that of any other newspaper published either in the same language or in the country; or
(c) the printer and publisher has ceased to be the printer or publisher of the newspaper mentioned in such declaration; or
(d) the declaration was made on knowingly false representation on the concealment of any material fact or in respect of a periodical work which is not a newspaper; the District Co-ordination Officer or, where the District Government has not come into being, the Deputy Commissioner may, by the order, cancel the declaration and shall forward as soon as possible a copy of the order to the person making or subscribing the declaration and also to the Press Registrar.
(2) During the period of sixty days of the cancellation order no person shall be issued a declaration in the name of the same title to any other person.
“Provided that in a situation of emergency, pending action under this section, the District Coordination Officer, or as the case may be, the Deputy Commissioner, may suspend the declaration for a period not exceeding thirty days, as deemed appropriate in the circumstances.”
From the above, it is evident that on an application of the Press Registrar (as defined in section 2(m) of the Ordinance) either suo moto or based on the information provided by any person, the District Coordination Officer (respondent) can take cognizance of the issue, involving violation of section 19 and thereupon, after inquiry and affording an opportunity of hearing he is invested with the powers to cancel the declaration.
10. While interpreting section 19 of the Ordinance this Court in judgment reported as Qaisar Nadeem Saqi v. District Coordination Officer (DCO), Hafizabad and 8 others (PLD 2006 Lahore 76) has held as follows:
“3. After hearing the learned counsel for the appellant, the learned Assistant Advocate-General appearing for respondents Nos.1 to 4 and respondent No.8 in person and after going through the record of this case with their assistance it has straightaway been noticed by me that the entire proceedings conducted by the District Coordination Officer, Hafizabad in the matter were without lawful authority and coram non judice. According to the provisions of subsection (1) of section 19 of the Press, Newspapers, News Agencies and Books Registration Ordinance, 2002 a declaration of a newspaper can be cancelled by a District Coordination Officer “On the application of the Press Registrar either suo moto or based on the information through any person”.
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