Social Media Rules should not violate the Constitution: IHC

Islamabad, 4th December: Islamabad High Court has asked the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to ensure that social media rules do not violate the constitution. 

According to reports, on Friday, the Islamabad High Court directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to satisfy the bench that the recently issued social media rules do not violate Article 19 and 19(A) of the Constitution of Pakistan.

According to reports from Geo News, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard a petition filed by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) challenging Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Content (Procedure, Oversight, and Safeguards) Rules 2020 framed by the PTI government under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) and directed PTA to consider objections raised by the PBC.

The court restrained the PTA lawyer from giving the example of India suppressing freedom of expression and asked not to mention India here.

He said we are very clear that fundamental rights should not be violated if India is doing wrong, then we should we also do wrong? To begin with, who suggested making such rules and which authority approved them? 

PTA council claims that they sought recommendations from PBC. The PBC counsel, on the other hand, pointed out that some of the rules violate rights granted by the Constitution.

Justice Minallah observed that the social media rules that discourage criticism also suppress accountability and stressed that no law was above criticism.

Addressing the PTA lawyer, the judge said criticism is an important aspect of freedom of expression and should be encouraged.

“Why should one be scared of criticism? Everyone should face it. Even court rulings are subject to criticism once published, as long as it does not compromise the trial, and are not liable to contempt of court,” remarked the judge. “Why should the court fear accountability?”

Justice Minallah told the PTA that criticism is necessary for democracy and that it would be detrimental to discourage it in the 21st century. He said the objections raised by PBC are reasonable.

The bench directed PTA to submit a reply in the matter and satisfy the court that the rules do not violate Article 19 and 19(A) of the Constitution and the hearing was adjourned till December 18.

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