PECA can be withdrawn if all petitioners sit together: Justice Minallah

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The Islamabad High Court (IHC). — IHC website
The Islamabad High Court (IHC). — IHC website 

  • Remarks were made by CJ after hearing petitions against PECA ordinance. 
  • Journalist Defense Committee’s lawyers Munir Malik, Barrister Umer Ijaz Gilani and others appear before court today.
  • “We are ready to sit together with them [government] to resolve the issue," says PFUJ’s counsel Adil Aziz Qazi.

ISLAMABAD: The Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act ordinance 2022 can be withdrawn if all the petitioners sit together and discuss the matter, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah said on Thursday.

The remarks were made by the chief justice after he heard the petitions against the PECA ordinance. 

All the petitions filed against the act by the Pakistan Broadcasters Association, Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), other media bodies and journalists have been combined by the IHC.  

Journalist Defense Committee’s lawyers Munir Malik, Barrister Umer Ijaz Gilani, and others appeared before the court today.

At the outset of today’s hearing, PFUJ’s counsel Adil Aziz Qazi, while backing the advice of Justice Minallah, said: “We are ready to sit together with them [government] to resolve the issue."

When asked what would happen to the cases that are being trialled under the PECA ordinance, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan clarified that no case under the ordinance is being heard in any court in the county at present.

At this, the judge ruled that the court would not stop the proceedings of the cases that were lodged under the previous law.

No arrests under section 20 of PECA

The attorney general assured the court that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) will not arrest anybody under Section 20 of the PECA.

Referring to the Mohsin Baig case, Justice Minallah noted that the FIA director could not clarify why the media person was taken into custody.

Justice Minallah observed, “all the vloggers and politicians will be behind the bars if the position remains the same.”

'Freedom of press, freedom of speech is essential

During the course of the proceeding of the case, PFUJ General-Secretary Nasir Zaidi said that the government wanted to curb the freedom of expression at all costs. He maintained that journalists engaged with the government and presented suggestions in this regard but nothing came of it.

Zaidi said that the government was consulting with them when the ordinance was suddenly promulgated. He maintained that it seemed some government circles did not give value to the attorney general.

At this, the judge remarked that the prime minister had given the mandate to the attorney general, hence, "let him do his efforts." 

He maintained that the petitions will remain pending till the attorney general concludes its efforts to resolve the matter.

Justice Minallah noted, “freedom of press and freedom of speech is essential.”