Opposition pleas against PECA ordinance dismissed

CJ Minallah says judicial intervention in parliamentary affairs weakens parliament

Our Correspondent February 25, 2022
PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari (L) and PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif (R). Photo: File


The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday dismissed petitions filed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) against the amendments in the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) to make defamation a criminal and non-bailable offence.

In a short order on the pleas filed by both parties, Chief Justice Athar Minallah said the high court could not accept the petition as both PML-N and PPP had a relevant forum, parliament, available to contest the changes in the law.

IHC CJ Minallah said the court's interference in political affairs weakens parliament and the judiciary itself is adversely affected by such interventions.

Read: Fawad reiterates 'full' support for controversial PECA law

"As per Article 189, political parties play a crucial role," he said, hoping that political parties will not bring parliamentary matters to the courts as it will weaken parliament.

The court said a plea against PECA by stakeholders is already being heard and appointed Advocate Mansoor Awan as amicus curiae in the case.

During the hearing of the case, the court said it respected all political parties and they should play their role to strengthen parliament. The judge said the courts should not meddle in parliamentary affairs.

The political parties, instead of submitting unnecessary petitions in the courts, should play their role in parliament, he said, adding that parliament can even amend the Constitution.

Read More: Govt defends PECA move amid heavy criticism

Justice Minallah said the court listened to other stakeholders -- journalist bodies among them -- as there was no other forum available to them, but political parties can go to parliament.

"We took up petitions against PECA on Thursday, listened to the attorney general as well," the court said, adding that "symbolic hearings" on the pleas filed by political parties could not be conducted.

A day earlier, the high court grilled the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the federal government over its "oppressive and draconian" changes in the PECA law through an ordinance.

It asked the attorney general as to why the court should not declare Section 20 of PECA null and void.

The IHC CJ had observed that Peca was only used to target critics of the government. “It is being said with regret that the proceedings [under Peca] were initiated against those individuals who criticised the government.”



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