March 21, 2022 – Islamabad High Court (IHC) saw significant progress in the case regarding FIA’s authority, under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), today. The court has instructed Asad Umar, the Federal Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Special Initiatives to look at all the records and assist in the case.
Chief Justice, Athar Minallah, heard petitions against notices issued to various journalists and citizens under PECA. Deputy Attorney General, Syed Muhammad Tayyab Shah, appeard in court on behalf of the governement and told the court that Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan could not appear because of his engagements at the Supreme Court today and that an alternative date should be given instead.
On the other hand, Kanwal Shauzab’s Counsel, Advocate Azhar Siddique filed a civil miscellaneous appeal requesting that the case of registering a complaint with FIA against her neighbour be resolved as far as Shauzab is concerned. The reasons cited were; the resolution of the conflict between Shauzab and the citizen she clashed with on social media and their consequent reconciliation. It was also mentioned that she has already taken her complaint back from the FIA. The court, however, rejected the petition by citing that FIA abandoned complaints from thousands of citizens to take up a public official’s request so now the court is looking at FIA’s powers in the same.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Athar Minallah also expressed his anger over the social media campaign related to the case, remarking that a campaign was launched about the pending case despite the fact that relief was given to Kanwal Shauzab from this court.
In the aftermath of the hearing of clubbed petitions, Asad Umar has now been appointed as judicial assistant in the case. He will be assisting the court by looking at all the records, to gauge if it was appropriate to run such a campaign.
Additionally, Kanwal Shauzab’s counsel Azhar Siddique also sought a stay on media and social media reporting of the case, but the court rejected it. Advocate Azhar Siddique requested that the court put an end to this negative reporting by the media, by using Hudaibiya case as precedence. He suggested that everything that is said in court is then reported by the media negatively. In response to the said request by Siddique, Chief Justice Athar Minallah remarked that the court would not stop anyone from talking about the cases. He stated that all vloggers do this anyway so the court would not be stopping anyone. It, however, would provide relief to Kanwal Shauzab and try to remedy all her complaints but that would only happen after Asad Umar has been heard from.
The hearing in the case of FIA’s authority (including Kanwal Shauzab) under PECA has been adjourned till March 25. The petitions of the journalists’ organisations against the PECA Amendment Ordinance will now also be heard on March 25.