April 8, 2022 – In petitions challenging the PECA Amendment Ordinance, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has reserved its decision. Chief Justice Athar Minallah questioned whether surveillance of journalists is the responsibility of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). He said that people’s rights are being violated, who is going to be responsible for this, the Court has to decide today.
The FIA has submitted its report to the Islamabad High Court on the matters related to PECA Amendment Ordinance. During the hearing, the Chief Justice expressed anger towards the DG FIA, and remarked that the SOPs that were presented before the Court have been violated; those sections were added in complaints that are not even relevant, and the Court must be informed how to deal with this. Director FIA Babar Bakht answered that because PECA law exists, the authority receives pressure for its implementation as well. He informed that sometimes arrests are made before the FIR is registered, and only after the arrest is when the FIR is filed. Chief Justice Athar Minallah exclaimed that the Director FIA does not seem embarrassed by his action and is justifying the actions of the authority.
The Chief Justice referred to the case where journalist Mohsin Baig was arrested from his house, and said that the FIR was registered in Lahore and the arrest was made in Islamabad, which law allows this? He asked if any action has been taken for a regular citizen. Director FIA informed that apart from the case of Bilal Ghouri, inquiries in all cases have been completed. The Chief Justice also said that Bilal Ghouri referred to a book in a vlog, how does it warrant an inquiry? He remarked that the country has gone through various martial law regimes, this is history and people will talk about it. Someone has to be accountable for it.
The Court reserved the decision in the case.