Islamabad High Court declared PECA ordinance 2022 unconstitutional

IHC announced its verdict on the petitions filed by journalist organisations, political parties and lawyer's organisation

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday declared the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) amendment 2022 ordinance unconstitutional and "null and void." The IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah announced the judgement reserved earlier today. The petition filed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) against the amendment has been accepted by the IHC. 

The IHC has declared that the PECA ordinance 2022 violates the constitutional rights of freedom of expression and and freedom of speech. 

The decision was announced by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah in connection with the petitions filed against the PECA ordinance 2022 by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalist (PFUJ), Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) and other media bodies.

In February this year, President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated the PECA ordinance, making online public defamation a cognisable and a non-bailable offence and also increasing the jail term for defaming any person or institution from three years to five years.

Before the ordinance came into effect, Section 20, which pertains to the registration of complaints against individuals by aggrieved parties over defamation, was a bailable and non-criminal offence.

There was a stream of criticism from the opposition parties, rights organisations, and civil society against the controversial legislation which termed it an attack on freedom of speech and journalism.

The critics had said that the move was aimed not only to control the digital space but to prevent criticism against the government and the country’s powerful institutions.

Subsequently, the high court restrained the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from arresting anyone under Section 20 of the PECA ordinance while seeking a response from the government over the law.

As the proceedings inched forward, the ordinance, now declared void, had prompted the IHC CJ to say that the PM had been misguided about the law.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members, however, had defended PECA on multiple occasions. The PM had said that the amendments to PECA were brought because “social media was filled with filth such as child pornography”.

According to PM Imran, the content being shared on social media was causing a threat to the institution of the family. He had regretted that even he was not being spared, recalling that a few years ago a journalist had reported that his wife had left him and that he had done something illegal at his Bani Gala residence.

                                                              Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy Editor

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