The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday rejected the PML-N and PPP's petitions against the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (Peca) Ordinance 2022, observing that they were inadmissible.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked that he held political parties in high regard but instead of knocking on the door of the court, they should strengthen parliament and play their role there. “A political party approaching the court [for this purpose] is disrespectful to parliament,” he added.
During the hearing of the maintainability of the petition, the IHC chief justice told the lawyer representing the PML-N that the actual stakeholders, who had no other forum to take up their grievances, had already moved the court against the ordinance.
“The petitioner [PML-N] is already present in parliament. It should empower parliament instead of filing unnecessary pleas in the court.”
The judge noted that the attorney general for Pakistan had already been heard on the matter and it was time to present the final arguments.
Read IHC takes sting out of PECA 2022
The PML-N counsel replied that there was a time limit of 120 days to present an ordinance before the House. “We also want to assist the court,” he added.
Justice Minallah observed that all political parties, which had formed the government, had been issuing ordinances. “Parliament has great authority. It can even amend the Constitution.”
The judge assured the lawyer that the court will not entertain the petition of any other political party on the matter.
The court also dismissed the PPP’s petition against the ordinance. It was called twice but no lawyer appeared on behalf of the party. Later, the court rejected the petition. Former senator Farhatullah Babar, who is a PPP leader, has challenged the ordinance in his personal capacity.
A day earlier, PML-N's Marriyum Aurangzeb had filed a petition against the ordinance on behalf of her party. Speaking to reporters later, the PML-N leader had said every citizen had the right to information and freedom of expression according to the Constitution.
Read More Bars term PECA ordinance oppressive, extraconstitutional
“[Prime Minister] Imran Khan's government is pursuing a fascist agenda,” she had added.
Describing the government as a “factory of ordinances”, Marriyum had said the Constitution and law gave everyone the right to freedom of expression and access to information.
“However, Imran Khan's government is promulgating ordinances to stifle the voices of its opponents and media.”
Calling Peca Ordinance 2022 a “black law”, the PML-N leader had accused the prime minister of using the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) against political opponents and now the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for taking away media freedom.
Interestingly, Peca 2016 was passed during the tenure of the previous PML-N government. It was bulldozed through the National Assembly due to the PML-N and its allies’ two thirds majority.
However, even in the Senate, where the opposition was in majority, cosmetic amendments were made while glaring issues in the draft law were left unaddressed.
The then government had faced much opposition to this legislation from various sections of the society.
Rights groups repeatedly pointed to the vague language of the law, room for abuse due to over-criminalisation through the creation of speech offences, excessive powers given to the FIA, and the establishment of a censorship regime under Section 37 by giving the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) legislative and judicial powers.
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