ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah Thursday observed that the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act ordinance 2022 could be withdrawn if all stakeholders sit together.
Justice Minallah made the remarks while hearing petitions against the PECA ordinance. The IHC has clubbed all the petitions filed by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), other media bodies and journalists against the ordinance.
Journalist Defense Committee’s lawyers Munir Malik, Barrister Umer Ijaz Gilani and others appeared before the court today.
At the outset of today’s hearing, PFUJ’s counsel Adil Aziz Qazi, while backing the advice of Justice Minallah, said, “We are ready to sit together with them [government to resolve the issue]."
When asked what would happen to the cases that are being trialled under the PECA ordinance, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan clarified that no case under the ordinance is being heard in any court in the county currently.
At this, the judge ruled that they would not stop the proceedings of the cases that were lodged under the previous law.
The attorney general assured the court that Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will not arrest anybody under Section 20 of the PECA.
Reoffering to the Mohsin Baig case, Justice Minallah noted that the FIA director could not clarify that in case the media person was taken into custody.
Justice Minallah observed, “All the vloggers and politicians will be behind the bars if the position remains the same.”
At this, the attorney general said that he had already clarified that the current form of the PECA Ordinance will have draconian effects.
During the course of the proceeding of the case, PFUJ General Secretary Nasir Zaidi said that the government wanted to curb the freedom of expression at all costs. He maintained that they used to engage with the government and presented suggestions in this regard.
Zaidi said that the government was consulting with them when suddenly the ordinance was promulgated. He maintained that it seemed some government circles did not give value to the attorney general.
At this, the judge remarked that the prime minister had given the mandate to the attorney general, hence let him do his efforts. He maintained that the petitions will remain pending till the attorney general concludes its efforts to resolve the matter.
Justice Minallah noted, “Freedom of press and freedom of speech is essential.”
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