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April 21, 2021

SHC directs federal IT ministry to expedite consultative process

Karachi

April 21, 2021

The Sindh High Court directed the federal ministry of information technology and telecommunications on Tuesday to expedite the consultative process of the proposed personal data protection bill so that it could be placed before federal cabinet and the legislation process initiated.

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

The assistant attorney general filed comments on behalf of the ministry of information and telecommunication with regard to the consultation process. The ministry official submitted that the draft bill of personal data protection was ready and under the consultative process. The law officer said that after the completion of the consultative process, the bill would be placed before the federal cabinet for approval and thereafter the legislation process would be completed.

To a court query why the consultative process was being delayed, the law officer submitted that due to the Covid-19 SOPs, there was only 50 per cent attendance in offices; therefore, the consultative process was being delayed. He assured the court that the ministry would be communicated to expedite the process so that the bill could be placed before the federal government and the legislation process initiated.

The court granted one month’s time to the law officer to submit the progress report with regard to approval of the consultative process of the draft bill.

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

He said the 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 the hackers.

He informed the SHC that in the recent past, debit card details of as many as 19,864 Pakistani citizens had been sold to the dark web, a part of the internet used by cyber criminals to sell the stolen data, but no action or inquiry had been 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. 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, three million basic telephone subscribers and 78 million broadband subscribers, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority data.