Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday accepted an unconditional apology offered by GNN news channel’s owners for making a sifarishi (request for favorable treatment) call to the top judge.
The officials appeared before the court today for the hearing of a case filed by the director general (DG) of the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) that alleged the news channel — owned by the Gourmet group — of running a “character assassination” campaign against him after the watchdog had declared the company’s ice cream and frozen desserts unfit for human consumption.
During a hearing of the case on Tuesday, the chief justice expressed his anger over receiving a late night phone call by the group, presumably to ask him to show leniency to the company.
Gourmet Bakery and GNN owners Zulqarnain Chattha and Shehryar Chattha appeared in court today on the chief justice’s orders and apologized to the chief justice after being assailed for “making a sifarishi call”.
“Do you think courts run on sifarish?” the chief justice asked.
“Your [company’s] ice cream was substandard, it caused liver disease,” said the chief justice. “When the food authority took action, you ran a character assassination campaign against the DG.”
Shehryar expressed regret over the channel’s move and claimed the “mistake was made by the subordinate staff”.
“We will act on whatever orders that are issued by the court,” he said.
The chief justice reminded him that earlier samples of the bottled water sold by the group were also found to be unsatisfactory. Shehryar assured Justice Nisar that the company had acted on several guidelines that had been issued by the food authority.
PFA DG retired General Muhammad Usman told the court that the authority had sent the ice cream samples to a laboratory recommended by the Gourmet group. The lab results showed that the ice cream could cause liver disease in consumers.
Usman claimed that the media did not highlight the “poor performance” of major food companies like Gourmet because they sold advertisements to media outlets. “Instead they [media outlets] start a campaign against the food authority,” DG Usman said.
“We will issue an order for media outlets to publish [PFA’s] press releases exactly as they are issued,” the PFA DG declared.
The legal adviser of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, who was also present in court today, assured the chief justice that the body will ensure that the orders issued by the court are implemented.
The chief justice accepted the unconditional apology offered to the court by the owners of Gourmet and GNN and ordered them to broadcast an apology to the food authority during prime time within two days.
He also ordered the food authority to check all products sold by the food company.