The Lahore High Court on Thursday heard a challenge to amended Prevention of Electronic Crimes (PECA) Ordinance 2022.

A high court bench comprised of Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza heard a petition filed by Chaudhry Saeed Zafar.

The bench directed the petitioner’s counsel to appear before the court with preparation for the case and adjourned the hearing for one week.

“The government wants to curb the criticism with the newly promulgated PECA presidential ordinance,” the petition said. “It is a bid to silent the media,” according to the petition.

“Promulgation of an ordinance in presence of the Parliament is unconstitutional,” petition said and pleaded to strike down the impugned Prevention of Electronic Crimes Amendment Ordinance of 2022.

The ordinance has also been challenged by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in the Islamabad High Court.

The ordinance was promulgated two days after the end of the Senate session on Feb 17 and the session of the National Assembly was scheduled for Feb 18 but was called off at the eleventh hour, the PFUJ petition pointed out, adding that, “by doing so the respondents have promulgated the ordinance with deliberate intent in order to avoid the due process of legislation”.

“No emergency situations had arisen which called for issuance of an ordinance of this nature as it could have waited till the session of the National Assembly called,” the petitioner argued.

It said that freedom of expression is one of the fundamentals of a healthy democracy and to create an environment where people of the country are penalised for speaking their heart out, to express their opinion, to present facts before the general public, is against the democratic values given by not only the constitution of Pakistan but the world over.