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Govt withdraws FIA’s petition for restoration of PECA’s section 20

ISLAMABAD: Federal government on Saturday announced the withdrawal of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) petition seeking restoration of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act’s (PECA) Section 20.

The announcement was made by federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb hours after the FIA approached Supreme Court against Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) decision to scrap the PECA section.

Section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016 deals with offenses against the dignity of a person.

The information minister said the “petition stands withdrawn immediately”, as it is squarely against the government’s stated policy and the principle of standing for and ensuring freedom of expression.

She further added that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif learned about the filed petition in SC against the IHC judgment “a while ago” as he was in Bisham for PML-N’s public gathering.

“The prime minister has taken strict notice of the filing of this petition,” the information minister tweeted. “Unfortunately, the news of this petition was a little late to reach us due to the fact that we were in Bisham during the day where there were no signals.”

The FIA, in its application, had urged the apex court to set aside the IHC’s decision. It said that the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), one of the original applicants to approach the IHC against the PECA ordinance, was given relief without any legal justification.

The petition also stated that the IHC’s decision resulted in the inactivity of Section 20 of PECA claiming that the decision will encourage violators to break the law.

The agency prayed the court to grant a stay against the IHC’s April 8, 2022, order till a verdict is announced on their appeal.

On April 8, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) declared the controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022, “null and void”, terming it “unconstitutional”.

IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued a four-page order while hearing identical petitions filed against the controversial Peca ordinance by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). The court had earlier reserved its verdict.

In the written order, Justice Minallah said that freedom of expression was a fundamental right and reinforces all other rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

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