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Islamabad High Court declares PECA Ordinance unlawful

Referring to journalist Bilal Ghauri’s case, the chief justice said how the agency could take action against Ghauri. He just did a vlog and referred to a book, Justice Minallah said.

ISLAMABAD: Islamabad High Court (IHC) today declared unlawful the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (amendment) Ordinance, 2022.

In today’s hearing, the IHC chief justice came down hard on the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in connection with arrests of journalists under the notorious Prevention of Electronic Crimes (amendment) Ordinance, 2022.

During the hearing on Friday, Chief Justice IHC Athar Minallah said that the FIA is monitoring journalists. Is this what the FIA is supposed to do? CJ Minallah asked.

Referring to journalist Bilal Ghauri’s case, the chief justice said how the agency could take action against Ghauri. He just did a vlog and referred to a book, Justice Minallah said.

The court had made similar remarks during March 30 hearing. What would be the justification for the “power of arrest” under amended Section 20 of PECA? the court asked. “If a journalist quoted from a book, how would section 20 apply to him? The FIA itself has created a case to declare the section null and void.”

Director General FIA Babar Bakht, who appeared before the court on Friday, told the court that at times the agency arrests the suspect first and once the recovery is made, then FIR is filed.

Bakht’s comments angered the chief justice who asked under what law such arrests are made.

You are not ashamed of what you are doing and giving arguments to defend it, Justice MInallah said.

The chief justice said an FIR was registered in Lahore and the raid was conducted in Islamabad referring to Mohsin Baig’s arrest.

Someone should answer, peoples’ rights are being violated, said CJ Minallah.

The chief justice said the SOPs were presented to the court but then they were violated.

DG FIA said once a law is being enacted, the agency is pressurized to apply it.

Someone needs to be held accountable, tell us who is responsible, we need to issue an order, the court said. After the arguments concluded, the court reserved the verdict of the case and adjourned the hearing.

Javed Mahmood
Written By

I am an experienced writer, analyst, and author. My exposure in English journalism spans more than 28 years. In the past, I have been working with daily The Muslim (Lahore Bureau), daily Business Recorder (Lahore/Islamabad Bureaus), Daily Times, Islamabad, daily The Nation (Lahore and Karachi). With daily The Nation, I have served as Resident Editor, Karachi. Since 2009, I have been working as a Freelance Writer/Editor for American organizations.

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