Pak high court strikes down ordinance to amend cybercrime law
The Islamabad High Court issued a four-page verdict to strike down the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Amendment Ordinance, 2022, which was criticised for criminalising defamation.
Published: 08th April 2022 07:44 PM | Last Updated: 08th April 2022 07:44 PM | A+A A-
ISLAMABAD: In another setback to the beleaguered government of Imran Khan, a Pakistan high court on Friday declared "unconstitutional" a controversial ordinance introduced this year to amend cybercrime law.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued a four-page verdict to strike down the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022, which was criticised for criminalising defamation.
The law makes it a criminal act to slander any organisation, institution set up by the government, further increasing the punishment of three years imprisonment for guilty to five years.
The ordinance, viewed by the Opposition as an attempt to shield Pakistan's Army and Judiciary from criticism, was swiftly adopted into law by President Arif Alvi on February 20, a day after it was approved by Khan's cabinet.
Chief Justice Athar Minallah on Friday ruled that the law was against the freedom of expression which was a fundamental right under the Constitution and its suppression was "unconstitutional and contrary to the democratic values".
"The criminalisation of defamation, protection of individual reputations through arrest and imprisonment and the resultant chilling effect violates the letter of the Constitution and the invalidity thereof is beyond reasonable doubt," the order said.
The judge said the federal government was expected to review defamation laws, particularly the Defamation Ordinance, 2002, and suggest appropriate legislation for effective implementation of the laws.
Earlier known as Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act or Peca, the law was first introduced in 2016 by the government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz while Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf as the Opposition party at that time had protested against it.
Accusing the PML-N of bulldozing the bill, the PTI opposed it for giving the executive with sweeping powers to curb the freedom of expression.
But years later, the same PTI tried to make it more stringent while the PML-N opposed the move for being draconian.
Khan faces the possibility of being the first prime minister in Pakistan's history to be voted out in a no-confidence motion.
In a landmark 5-0 verdict on Thursday, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court ruled that National Assembly deputy speaker Qasim Suri's ruling rejecting a no-confidence motion against Khan was "contrary to the Constitution and the law, and of no legal effect."
The apex court also declared the advice by the Prime Minister to President Alvi to dissolve the national assembly as "unconstitutional." The court ordered the speaker of the lower house to call the session of the national assembly on April 9 at 10 am (local time) to organise a no-confidence vote.
Khan came to power in 2018 with promises to create a 'Naya Pakistan' but miserably failed to address the basic problem of keeping the prices of commodities in control.
The current term of the National Assembly was to end in August 2023.