- Prevention of Electronic Crimes Amendment Ordinance 2022 has already been challenged in the Lahore High Court
Pakistan's legal fraternity has strongly condemned and rejected the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Amendment (PECA) Ordinance 2022 with the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) saying that it "is a classic example of authoritarian mindset and a reflection of extremism".
In separate statements, the Sindh High Court Bar Association (SHCBA), Karachi, and the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) also condemned the "black law", calling it draconian.
On Sunday, President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated the PECA Ordinance 2022 and Election Act (Amendment) Ordinance. According to media reports, in the PECA Amendment Ordinance issued by the President, the definition of a person has been expanded to include any company, association, institution or authority. Section 20 of the ordinance has been amended to increase the sentence from 3 years to 5 years in case of attack on the identity of any person.
The person filing the complaint will be the aggrieved party, his representative or guardian, the offence has been declared admissible, and it will be non-bailable, media reported. The trial court will decide the case within six months and will submit the details of the case to the high court every month.
In response to the amendments, the SCBAP said enforcers of such draconian laws must know that no one "should be stoned while living in a glass house".
"The SCBAP certainly believes that redressal of fake news issue needs immediate attention but any such remedy, which is contrary to the Constitution and against personal liberty, must not be allowed.
"Undeniably, constructive and positive criticism coupled with freedom of speech/expression is a cornerstone for the betterment of society like ours; however, attempts like the PECA Ordinance will never allow our growing society to flourish at its full potential."
The SCBAP added that attempts like the PECA Ordinance "will never allow our growing society to flourish at its full potential".
It added that it will soon challenge the promulgation of the ordinances.
Similarly, the SHCBA also condemned the "Black Law", saying that such amendments "are a colourable exercise of power by the president and the law minister.
“What the SCHBA finds most alarming is that by virtue of these oppressive amendments, the so-called sacred cows in authority that wish to be above all and any criticism (whether in the discharge of their public duties or in their personal affairs), can bring about an action to sue any critic through a proxy/member of the public!” the SHCBA said.
The LHCBA said the ordinance violated the constitution and should be declared void. The legislation was an attempt to repress the independence of media and judiciary, it said in a statement.
PECA challenged in LHC
Earlier on Tuesday, the PECA ordinance was challenged in the Lahore High Court by Muhammad Ayyub who said that the president promulgated PECA amendment ordinance with 'mala fide intention and for ulterior motive' to 'harass and blackmail the opposition' as well as the public at large.
The petitioner said that the motive behind the promulgation of the impugned ordinance is a direct attack on the independence of the judicial system as well as judges of constitutional jurisdiction.
The principal staff officer of President Arif Alvi, principal secretary Prime Minister Imran Khan, secretary Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, secretary establishment, establishment division, secretary cabinet and secretary law and justice division have been named as respondents.