ISLAMABAD    -   Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan on Thursday informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the implementation of Section 20 of PECA Ordinance had been abandoned and the government had decided to consult all the stakeholders regarding the new law. Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the petitions filed by journalist bodies and other stakeholders challenging amendments in the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) through an ordinance. The AGP said there was a need to bring changes in the ordinance as it could be misused in its current form. All the institutions had been authorized under the new lay to to file complaints. He had briefed the prime minister regarding the weaknesses in the ordinance, he added.         The attorney general said a commission would be set up and no action would be taken on any complaint without its recommendation. The government would take all the stakeholders including PFUJ, CPNE and others on board.  The chief justice remarked that the AGP had given a very appropriate suggestion regarding the matter. The AGP said criticism on any public office holder could be made but no one should be allowed to disrespect anybody, particularly his /her family members.

The chief justice remarked that if the political parties agreed on the point that none of their followers would use derogatory words on social media then the issue could be addressed.

He observed that the AGP should be allowed to do his work as he had been the mandate by the PM. The petitions would remain pending.

AGP Khalid Jawed said the government would also introduce reforms in the civil laws for betterment. The court remarked that freedom of expression and freedom of speech were compulsory in a society.

The Federal Investigation Agency director general informed the court that his department had registered some 239,000 complains during last three years, 94,000 under Section 20 of PECA. However, no one had been arrested under Section 20 so far, he added.

He said many other sections were also added in the first information report (FIR) against Mohsin Baig, and read out the contents of FIR. He adopted the stance that the accused had also aired relevant programmes on YouTube.

The court observed that the FIA had registered a case and arrested the accused without conducting an inquiry into the matter.

The chief justice asked whether the sections added in this FIR could be applied in the case. He directed the AGP to review all the cases as to how the FIA misused its powers.

The AGP said that no case would be processed under the new ordinance until a detailed report was submitted to the court.

The chief justice noted that the FIA DG could not satisfy the court in Mohsin Baig’s case.

He observed that amendments were introduced at the time when the world was decriminalizing the defamatory cases. The elected representatives should present themselves for criticism.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNA Kanwal Shauzab adopted the stance that derogatory and filthy remarks had been used against her in a social media campaign. She was also a citizen of Pakistan, who had a family and relatives as well, she added.

She said she had a conflict with her neighbor and she extended apology to him.

The court noted that why the FIA had prioritized the complaint of Member of the National Assembly (MNA) while 95,000 applications were already pending with it.

The court extended its stay order against actions under the PECA ordinance and adjourned hearing till Monday on the AGP’s request.