Arguments by Journalist Organisations against PECA Amendment Ordinance Completed in Islamabad High Court

March 14, 2022 — The lawyers representing the journalist organisations including Pakistan Broadcasting Association (PBA), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) among others along with some of the senior journalists, have submitted their arguments challenging the PECA Amendment Ordinances in the Islamabad High Court. The Court has directed the Attorney General to submit the arguments in the next hearing on March 21.

Chief Justice Athar Minallah, heard the arguments under the petitions by various stakeholders challenging the ordinance to amend PECA. Senior lawyer Munir A. Malik, who was representing PBA, told the court that the issuance of the ordinance is an executive power subject to judicial review, and added that section 44-A of PECA Ordinance would hinder the freedom of the judiciary and the judges. Section 44-A demands the cases of defamation filed under the amendment be concluded within six month, and the sessions court will have to submit a report on the update of the case. In addition, it directs that in instances where an order is not issued within six months, the case will be referred to the high court that will then carry the proceedings.

Lawyer Munir A. Malik said that an ordinance can only be issued in case of emergency Article 89 of the Constitution. He presented a screenshot of the tweet by the President Arif Alvi posted on February 14 stating that a National Assembly session had been called on February 18, but he signed the PECA amendment Ordinance on that day instead. Lawyer Adil Aziz Qazi who was representing PFUJ in the Court, reminded that the National Assembly session, however, was postponed at the last minute.

He further said that this point alone reveals the ill-intention of passing the amendment through an ordinance rather than parliamentary approval. Another lawyer of PFUJ Sajid Tanoli said that an exclusive lawmaking process was adopted to pass this amendment only to suppress freedom of expression in the country. He said that this amendment goes in violation of various human rights and the Constitution itself, and should be declared ultra vires.

Next hearing on the applications is fixed on March 21, 2022.

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