IHC directs Government to consult more stakeholders for Social Media Rules

Urdu update here | English translation by Salwa Rana

Islamabad, 22nd February, 2021: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has directed the Federal Government and the Attorney General to consult more stakeholders on the amendment of the Social Media Rules and submit a report to the Court.

The Chief Justice Athar Minallah, on Monday, heard a case filed by Mr. Haroon Rasheed against the Rules, along with a contempt petition filed against journalist and TV anchor, Hamid Mir. The Judge directed the registrar to club both of these cases with several others filed against the Rules that are set for hearing on the 26th of February.

The Court praised the Attorney General’s stand in a January 25 hearing to review the Social Media Rules after a multi-stakeholder consultation process, and added that it was important to take into consideration the input of all stakeholders, even if the Government needed more time to do so.

The Court had directed the Attorney General to appear on February 26 to submit a report on the consultation carried out by his office. As per these directions of the Court, the Attorney General’s office conducted a meeting with a few stakeholders who provided their opinions and suggestions on February 19.

Over five petitions are pending before the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court challenging the Social Media Rules. The Court has also questioned the constitutionality and legality of the Rules itself, citing the rights laid down in Article 19 and 19-A of the Constitution, and how PTA can make Rules that violate these rights. 

During this hearing, the Court also asked Deputy Attorney General (DAG), Mr. Tayyab Shah, who was also present during the proceedings, whether the orders demanding restoration of internet services in tribal areas were followed through. The DAG informed the Court that progress was being made in that regard; the Federal Government is in discussion with the PTA, and the Prime Minister has also announced that internet will be restored in the affected areas. The Chief justice approved of this development.

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