LHC declared petition by journalist infructuous after FIA found no evidence against him

Islamabad, November 19, 2020 – The Lahore High Court (LHC) Pindi bench on Tuesday, November 17, dismissed an application filed by journalist Mr. Asad Toor, demanding the quashing of a First Information Report (FIR) filed against him in September. 

The Court declared that the petition was infructuous after the Investigating Officer of the Federal Investigation Authority (FIA) came to the conclusion that there was no incriminating evidence against Mr. Toor that was needed to proceed with the complaint. 

The FIR, filed on September 12, accused Mr. Toor of violating Sections 499, 500 and 505 of the Pakistan Penal Code, along with Sections 11, 20 and 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016, for maligning the state and its institutions. 

Following the registration of FIR, Mr. Toor then filed an application demanding the quashing of said FIR under section 561-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in the Lahore High Court. 

In earlier proceedings conducted against Mr. Toor in the Additional Sessions Court of Rawalpindi, the Police and FIA had admitted that the sections under Pakistan Penal Code were added erroneously as all alleged offences were committed over the Internet and hence, only PECA should have been applicable. 

However, after a detailed investigation by the FIA, it was further revealed that Section 37: Unlawful Online Content of PECA was also added as a ‘mistake’ since it does not define an offence, rather bestows powers upon the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to remove ‘unlawful content’ from the Internet. 

The FIA also found that there was no credible evidence against Mr. Toor under section 11 and 20 of the PECA as well, and that the complainants lacked locus standi, further absolving Mr. Toor of all the allegations.

Based on the findings of the FIA, the Lahore High Court decided that it had become unnecessary to intervene as the matter was no longer being pursued by either the Police or the FIA, and dismissed Mr. Toor’s application.

Disclaimer: An earlier draft of this story stated that the judgment was given by the Islamabad High Court, when it was in fact given by the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court. This has now been corrected.

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Salwa Rana is a lawyer who specialises in digital human rights policymaking.

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