FIA’s plea in SC for restoration of section 20 in PECA withdrawn

Zubair Qureshi

In a bizarre move the Federal Investigation Agency filed a plea in the Supreme Court of Pakistan challenging the Islamabad High Court’s order and sought restoration of section 20 in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016.

However, hours after the FIA approached the apex court, the petition was withdrawn.

Section 20 of the PECA Law “criminalizes the act of exhibiting, displaying or transmitting “information he knows to be false and intimidates or harms the reputation or privacy of a natural person. While this doesn’t apply to anything aired on television, it applies to everything uploaded and shared online. Political expression and satire are not exempted.”

The IHC had on April 8, in a 4-page order, declared the Section 20 “null and void” and ordered an investigation into the abuse of power by the FIA under the PECA law. Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb announced that the plea stood “withdrawn immediately” as it went against the government’s policy for freedom of expression.

“The prime minister and I learned a short while ago that FIA had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Islamabad High Court judgment regarding PECA Act 2016 to seek restoration of section 20 of the Act. Please note that this petition stands withdrawn immediately, as it is squarely against the government’s stated policy and principle of standing for and ensuring freedom of expression,” tweeted the information minister.

She said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had also taken serious notice of the filing of a petition without the government’s consent.

She shared that the news of the petition had reached them a “little late” as they were in KP for the public gathering “during the day where there were no signals”.

A spokesperson of the FIA also confirmed that the appeal had been “withdrawn immediately.” “FIA without taking the interior ministry and government’s approval had filed the petition,” the spokesperson said. Meanwhile, The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, which was made part of the petition, welcomed PM Shehbaz Sharif’s order for withdrawing FIA’s petition. The journalists’ body said that it had sought an urgent meeting of the Joint Action Committee to review the PECA act.

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