IHC stops government from arresting people under section 20 of PECA ordinance

The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued restraining order on the petition of PFUJ against PECA ordinance

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) stops the government from making arrests under Section 20 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Amendment Act ordinance (PECA) 2022. IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued a restraining order on the petition filed by PFUJ to the government against the arrest of people under the PECA ordinance on the petition filed by PFUJ.

During today's hearing, the counsel representing PFUJ, Adil Aziz Qazi, argued that the government deliberately postponed a scheduled session of the National Assembly (NA) on February 18 to introduce this ordinance. “What were the circumstances under which the government issued the ordinance in haste?” questioned the lawyer.

At this, the IHC CJ remarked that the FIA had already submitted SOPs relating to raids and arrests. The court ordered that nobody should be arrested on any complaint registered under Section 20.

“[The] interior ministry secretary and FIA director-general will be responsible if the SOPs are not followed,” warned Justice Minallah. “There should be no defamation law for public representatives”, remarked Justice Minallah.

Meanwhile, the court sought assistance from the attorney general of Pakistan in the case and adjourned the hearing till February 24.

The journalists’ bodies, human rights organisations, bar councils and opposition political parties have raised serious objections over the government's move and have termed it an attempt to stifle media. They have declared amendments as draconian and aimed to target government critics.  

President Dr Arif Alvi had promulgated an ordinance on February 20 to amend the PECA, 2016, making online defamation a non-bailable, cognisable offence and giving more power to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Under the amended laws, the jail term for the demotion was also increased from three years to five years.

                                                                              Web Desk

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