SHC seeks draft bill proposed for data protection

Asks PTA why laws for data protection have not been formulated in country yet

Our Correspondent February 03, 2021

The Sindh High Court sought from the Ministry of Law on Tuesday a draft of the laws proposed for the protection of personal data.

A two-member bench, headed by Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, issued the directive for the ministry during the hearing of a plea pertaining to the sale of sensitive data of 115 million Pakistanis on the dark web.

The plea states that sensitive data, including national identity card numbers, contact numbers and addresses, among other information, of Pakistani citizens was sold for Rs35 million and uploaded on the dark web. The plea decries the absence of laws for the protection of citizens' data.

At the hearing, the assistant attorney general (AG) informed the court that the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication had sent its reply on the plea via courier, but it wasn't received yet.

"It is expected to arrive in a few days," he said.

He further informed the court that the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2020 had been referred to the Ministry of Law for consultation.

At this, Justice Mazhar questioned, "Why is the matter being delayed when the laws for data protection have to be framed [in any case]?"

In this regard, advocate Tariq Mansoor, the counsel for the petitioner, also complained that it had been close to 11 months since the plea was filed, and yet, neither a reply was submitted on the plea, nor the relevant institutions had shared any details regarding framing of the data protection law.

Underlining the need for the law, he referred to the reports of privacy breach on WhatsApp.

Read More: Data protection law on the cards in Pakistan after WhatsApp policy shift

Replying to this, the assistant AG said, "There are several other issues, other than the privacy breach on WhatsApp, relevant to the matter."

The court, then turned its attention to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), stating that it needed to outline how it would protect the data and why the laws for data protection had not been formulated in Pakistan.

Responding to this, the counsel for the PTA said the authority had asked the Ministry of Law in writing to formulate the law.

"It this is the case, then the law should be framed immediately," the court stated, enquiring further that "Why is the government delaying the matter? What will happen if confidential data is leaked?"

Besides, the counsel for the petitioner drew attention to the absence of a national cyber policy in the country. Stating that lawmakers needed to legislate on the matter in light of data protection laws promulgated in other countries, the court sought a draft of the proposed laws by March 5.

Arguments sought, lawyer

Meanwhile, a two-member bench comprising Justice Muhammad Iqbal Kalhoro and Justice Shamsuddin Abbasi sought arguments from the lawyer of former provincial minister Sharjeel Memon in a plea challenging inquiries initiated by the National Accountability Bureau against Memon. The NAB prosecutor maintained before the court that the anti-graft watchdig had submitted its replies on inquiries launched against Memon on accusations of accumulating assets beyond known sources of income and misusing his authority on October 16, 2020, and it would submit any more replies.

At this, Memon's counsel contended that the NAB should inform the court how many inquiris were underway against his client.

The court directed the counsel to present his arguments at the next hearing on March 9.

At another hearing, also of a pertaining to inquiries initiated against Memon, the court summoned Memon's senior lawyer after the NAB submitted its reply on the plea.

The NAB prosecutor informed the court that to corruption references had been filed against Memon and four inquiries, pertaining to the misuse of authority and corruption, were under way against him.

He maintained that the anti-graft watchdog had not carried out any secret inquiry against the former provincial minister. Further stating Memon's plea was not maintainable, the lawyer moved the court to dispose it of.

Following that, the court adjourned the hearing, summoning Memon's lawyer at the next one.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 3rd, 2021.


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