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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Monday directed the authorities to raise the issue of banning the video-sharing platform, TikTok, in the federal Cabinet.

A single bench of Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the directions, while hearing the matter, wherein, he had already directed the secretary Ministry of Information and Technology to submit a report highlighting the policy of the federal government regarding blocking or banning of popular social media platforms merely because a few abuse it.

During the hearing, Maryam Farid appeared before the court on behalf of the petitioner, and Munawwar Iqbal Dogar from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and Deputy Attorney General Tayyab Shah represented the federation.

The IHC bench inquired from the PTA's lawyer whether the app was being currently used across the country.

The counsel for the PTA answered that about 99 per cent of the people are using the app through a proxy.

At this, the court questioned why the authority was so adamant about banning the app, if they could not beat technology and also asked why did the PTA want to cut off the country from the rest of the world.

"What happened to a previous court order regarding taking advice from the federal cabinet in this regard," the chief justice asked the PTA lawyer.

He asked has the government given any policy?

When the CJ further questioned had the cabinet directed for a ban on TikTok, the lawyer upon that submitted that a meeting in this regard was held on policy issues; however, no directives of imposing a ban were issued.

The IHC CJ remarked that it appeared that in the absence of rules, the PTA has illegally banned the video-sharing application in the country.

He warned that it could summon the PTA chairman, if the court orders are not implemented properly.

He added that the PTA should devise ways to deal with the technological challenges rather than banning the platforms.

Later, the court deferred the hearing till September 20 for further proceedings.

Muhammad Ashfaq Jutt, senior vice-president of Pakistan Kickboxing Federation has filed the petition through Barrister Usama Khawar.

The petitioner has filed the writ petition under Article-199 of the Constitution of Pakistan and has cited secretary Cabinet Division, secretary Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, and the PTA chairman as respondents.

The petitioner contended that the ban on TikTok was ultra vires the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016, the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act, 1996, the fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, and the doctrine of Legitimate Expectation under the law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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