The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the National Assembly speaker on Wednesday to form a committee to review the social media rules prepared by the previous government as he referred the matter to parliament for resolution.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah’s order came while hearing a petition challenging the social media rules prepared by the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
The CJ remarked that, “The government has now changed and those who were in the opposition previously and were opposed to these rules, are now in power.”
“Will it not be better for the government to consult with the stakeholders and settle the issue?” he inquired, adding that this court would always prefer the correction of laws to be done by those who are in government.
Emphasising the significance of the right to freedom of expression he stated, “The court has daily been observing what is constantly being done to freedom of expression here [in this country]. The rules must clarify everything without leaving anything open-ended so that they may not be misused tomorrow.”
The CJ further directed the government to correct the rules as they had been saying when they were in the opposition.
CJ Athar Minallah called Pakistan Peoples Party’s Farhatullah Babar on the rostrum and remarked that his party was in government now. “To rectify rules according to criticisms posed in the past as members of opposition is this government’s test” he furthered.
Farhatullah Babar replied that if the court sends the matter to the parliament, it will also be a test for the present government.
The court said that the parliament should look into the matter, and that it will look at the report once it comes.
The IHC has ordered to send the matter of social media rules prepared by the previous government to the speaker and asked him to form a National Assembly committee to review the social media rules.
In April, the IHC had declared the amendments to the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) through an ordinance promulgated in February this year as “unconstitutional”.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had challenged this decision on Saturday, contending that the IHC provided the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) relief “without legal justification”, claiming that the decision will encourage violators to break the law.
Following heavy criticism, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had on Saturday ordered FIA to immediately withdraw a petition filed in the Supreme Court.