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March 6, 2021

SHC seeks progress report on data protection law


March 6, 2021

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed a federal law officer to submit a progress report with regard to legislation on the personal data protection.

Hearing a petition seeking a direction to the government to promulgate necessary laws for the protection of mobile phone data of the citizens, a division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar asked a federal law officer about progress in legislation for the protection of personal data.

The law officer submitted that deliberation of stakeholders on the Personal Data Protection Bill 2020 had been completed and the same had been sent to the federal ministry of law and justice for vetting. He added that a reply from the ministry of law and information technology was being awaited and sought time to submit a progress report.

The high court expressed concern over delay in the completion of legislation and observed that it was a serious matter with regard to the protection of citizens’ privacy. The bench directed the law officer to submit a progress report on April 20.

The petitioner, M Tariq Mansoor, had submitted in the petition that media reports had highlighted that private personal data of 115 million mobile user citizens of the country had been breached and cyber criminals responsible for the data breach had demanded $ 2.1 million against providing such data to dark web.

He submitted that then chairman of the Senate standing committee on interior, Rehman Malik, had directed the Federal Investigation Agency to inquire into reports about the data breach involving the sale of data of 115 million Pakistanis by hackers.

The petitioner had informed the SHC that in the recent past, debit card details of as many as 19,864 Pakistani citizens were sold to dark web, a part of the internet used by cyber criminals to sell the stolen data, but no action or inquiry was conducted to probe such a breach and arrest the persons involved in cybercrime.

The high court was requested to direct the federal government to constitute a high-level inquiry commission to ascertain the facts and prosecute the culprits involved in the data breach. The petitioner sought a directive for the mobile phone operators to protect the data of their users, including 165.41 million cellular subscribers, 76 million 3G and 4G subscribers, 3 million basic telephone subscribers and 78 million broadband subscribers, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority data.

The petitioner requested the SHC to direct the government to promulgate necessary legislation and code of conduct for making the protection of personal data of public mandatory by the telecom, cellular, utility and other public service provider companies.

Missing person case

The SHC has taken exception to the failure of authorities to comply with court directives with regard to holding of meetings of the joint investigation teams and provincial task force in missing persons cases and directed the home secretary to appear in person to explain why the court orders were not followed.

Hearing a petition against the detention of Syed Moosa who has been missing since June 2015, the high court observed that the joint investigation team and provincial task force meetings were not held as per the direction of the court.

The high court observed that the investigation officer did not collect reports from the internment centres, and directed the chief secretary to ensure holding of the provincial task force meeting regularly on a monthly basis to trace out the whereabouts of the missing persons.

The SHC observed that in case of non-compliance, the chief secretary shall be called in person to explain the non-implementation of the court order.