ISLAMABAD ( Web News )
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday prohibited the government from making arrests under Section 20 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act ordinance 2022, Geo News reported.
President Dr Arif Alvi had promulgated an ordinance on February 20 to amend the PECA, 2016, making online defamation a non-bailable, cognisable offence and giving more power to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Under the amended laws, the jail term for the demotion was also increased from three years to five years.
However, the recent arrest of journalist Mohsin Baig at FIA’s hands drove the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) reach out to the IHC against the PECA ordinance 2022.
Moved by PFUJ’s petition, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued a restraining order to the government against the arrest of people under the said ordinance.
During today’s hearing, the counsel representing PFUJ, Adil Aziz Qazi, argued that the government deliberately postponed a scheduled session of the National Assembly (NA) on February 18 to introduce this ordinance.
“What were the circumstances under which the government issued the ordinance in haste?” questioned the lawyer.
At this, the judge remarked that the FIA had already submitted SOPs relating to raids and arrests. The court ordered that nobody should be arrested on any complaint registered under Section 20.
“[The] interior ministry secretary and FIA director-general will be responsible if the SOPs are not followed,” warned Justice Minallah.
“There should be no defamation law for public representatives”, remarked Justice Minallah.
Meanwhile, the court sought assistance from the attorney general of Pakistan in the case and adjourned the hearing till February 24.