The Islamabad High Court—IHC has announced that Pakistan Telecommunication Authority—PTA is not empowered to block any website in violation of the due process and without giving a chance of hearing to the other party.
Athar Minallah—the IHC Chief Justice wrote in his order that PTA definitely has no power to pass a verdict for acting under Section 37 in the derogation of the necessary requirements of due process.
While hearing a case reading the blocking of Awami Workers Party’s (AWP) website, the order said that PTA has mentioned in response to the query that Section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 empowers PTA to block websites without notice or providing a chance to the person who could be badly affected by a directive or action of the authority.
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This translation of Section 37 of the Act 2016 is in shameless violation of the basic rights assured under the Constitution as well as the settled law articulated by the higher courts.
The court noted that the principles of natural justice are needed to be read into every statue. It was further observed that Article 10A makes it a must to observe the requirements of due process before passing any verdict or taking any action whereby persons could be badly affected.
It added that the legislature in its wisdom by using the expression shall have the manifested its plan that it is essential for the Authority to prescribe verdicts for the objectives described under the Section 37(2) of the Act of 2016.
While commenting on the judgement, Umar Gilani—the AWP counsel said that the verdict is likely to become a seminal pattern in cyberlaw.
He said that it would hopefully be ensuring better protection of online speech. He added that the judgment proves that despite everything that is going on, the ideals of the constitutionalism are still functional in Pakistan.
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