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The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the federation and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MoI&B) that under which law they enjoy the privilege not to disclose the utilization of secret funds of the Ministry.
A two-member bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain resumed hearing of identical petitions filed against the federation and MoI&B on the release of secret funds on a media campaign in the country. The court rejected the request of Raja Amir Abbass, counsel for the Ministry that the court must grant him some time for preparation as he was engaged in the case recently.
Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja asked the counsel for the MoI&B to provide the grounds on which the federation and Ministry were taking the plea that law gives them the right not to disclose information. “Under Article 19 (A) of the constitution they are bound to disclose information regarding the utilization of secret funds publically,” he added. During the course of proceeding, a representative of the Information Ministry submitted details regarding the utilization of the secret funds allocated during the financial year 2012-13.
Raja Amir Abbass apprised the court that a Special Publicity Fund (SPF) worth Rs 84.570 million was utilized in engaging foreign experts and writers to counter any news material published against the country in foreign media.
However, petitioner Hamid Mir and Absar Alam informed the court that the Ministry provided incorrect details about the SPF as the actual amount was around Rs 870 million. The court while expressing displeasure over the arguments of Raja Amir Abbass that as per law the federation was not bound to disclose the information. The apex court remarked that the issue was not about the secret funds, it is about the privilege claimed by the federation and added that it is the court to decide whether the federation could claim that privilege. Meanwhile, Justice Khawaja sought details of funds distributed by the Information Ministry among the blue-eyed journalists as a gift. The court remarked that it is a matter of public importance relating directly with the fundamental rights of people and under Article 19 (A) the federation is bound to disclose information about of utilization of public money.
The court adjourned hearing till Thursday (April 11).