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Friday April 12, 2024

SHC takes exception to internet suspension on polling day

The court observed that international media was telecasting reports as to how the elections were conducted in the country

By Jamal Khurshid
February 22, 2024
The Sindh High Court (SHC) building in Karachi. — SHC website.
The Sindh High Court (SHC) building in Karachi. — SHC website.

KARACHI:The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Wednesday took exception to suspension of internet and cellular phone service on election day and observed that entire world had witnessed as to how the elections were conducted in the country.

During hearing of the petitions against the shutting down of internet services in the country every now and then, SHC’s division bench headed by Chief Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi observed what the need of conducting elections was if the high profile posts of president, prime minster and governorship were to be bestowed upon each other while sitting in drawing room.

The court observed that international media was telecasting reports as to how the elections were conducted in the country and there was complete shutdown of internet and cellular phone services on election day.

The court observed that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Ministry of Information were specifically ordered to ensure that there was no more disruption and shutdown of cellular phone and internet broadband services unless provisions of relevant rules were attracted but regretfully the order of the court was not complied with.

The counsel of PTA submitted that internet and cellular service were shut down due to national security concerns and reports filed by federal and provincial governments agencies. He said that decision for shutting down the internet service was taken by the competent authority under the policy matter and sought time to file the additional comments.

The court observed that internet service could be shut down on specific areas due to law and order situation but entire country could not be deprived of internet service. The court observed why the country was being made a laughing stock by shutting down the internet service now and then.

The court expressed dissatisfaction over the comments filed by the PTA and observed that same was evasive and directed the PTA, Ministry of Interior and others to file comments with regard to non-compliance of court order.

Petitioner Jibran Nasir, who is also an independent candidate in the general elections, submitted in the petition that the PTA and the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication were causing hindrance in access to social media platforms while disrupting internet broadband services without any cogent reasons.

He submitted that PTA had closed down political parties websites and independent candidates websites during election campaign disrupting the internet services and shut down the social media platforms, and it appeared that such an act was aimed to stop political parties as well as independent candidates from campaigns on social media.

It is pertinent to mention that SHC had earlier directed the PTA and others to ensure that unless the provision of Section 8 and Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunication Act read with relevant rules are attracted, there should be no disruption and shutting down of mobile and internet broadband services. It also told the PTA to ensure smooth and uninterrupted internet broadband services so that the people could have access to social media platforms or websites.