Blocked websites: Court seeks reply from PTA

Summons authority’s chairperson on January 20.


Obaid Abbasi January 15, 2015
Babar Sattar, the counsel for Bolo Bhi, had earlier informed the court that the workings of the committee had been non-transparent and dubious. PHOTO: IHC WEBSITE

ISLAMABAD: A local court on Thursday sought explanation from Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) over blocking of certain websites.

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Judge Athar Minallah summoned the PTA chairperson to explain under what law certain websites had been blocked.

He was hearing a petition filed last year by Bolo Bhi, an NGO working for the rights of internet users, challenging the legal position of Inter-Ministerial Committee for the Evaluation of Websites (IMCEW).

Judge Minallah directed PTA Chairperson Ismail Shah to appear before the court on January 20 and explain under what law the websites had been blocked.

PTA had blocked many websites and Facebook pages on the direction of the committee.

The NGO has questioned the transparency of the committee’s working.

In December last year, the same bench had restrained the inter-ministerial body from blocking websites and sought a reply from the Ministry of Information Technology and the PTA.

Instead of submitting a reply, on January 9, the government filed an application requesting the court to restore the committee’s powers.

The ministry had claimed that the court had issued the restraining orders without hearing its point of view.

On Thursday, when the court resumed hearing of the case, Ameena Sohail, representing, the Ministry of Information Technology, maintained the committee was a recommended body and it was constituted on the order of the prime minister.

She claimed that it was PTA that actually blocked the content as the ministry only sent the relevant information to the authority.

Sohail also informed the court that different petitions related to the same matter were pending in Lahore High Court (LHC) and the Supreme Court (SC).

Earlier, at the last hearing, the court had also sought a detailed report on blocked websites.

However, Sohail requested the court that the ministry wished to submit the detail in a sealed envelope.

Babar Sattar, the counsel for Bolo Bhi, had earlier informed the court that the workings of the committee had been non-transparent and dubious.

He had contended that the committee, constituted in 2006 through an executive order, came under the Ministry of IT. For eight years it had been issuing orders for content takedown without any meeting of members, which was illegal, the counsel contended.

He maintained that the committee had no legal standing and it had arbitrarily conferred upon itself powers.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2015.

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