ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Tuesday rejected the amendments in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA), 2016 and the Election Act, 2017 through Presidential ordinances.

Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon, president SCBA and PBC Vice-Chairman Hafeezur Rehman Chaudhry through separate statements dismissed the amendments in the PECA and the Election Act. Bhoon said the SCBA in particular and the legal fraternity, in general, is of the firm opinion that the Ordinances are strictly ultra-vires to the Constitution; the SCBA will soon challenge the promulgation of both the Ordinances.

He said under the guise of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022, the ruling elite has once again launched a vicious agenda to cut throat of its political opponents and to silence all those who believe in freedom of speech, opinion and expression, so as to hide its insane and continuous failures.

The PECA Ordinance is a classic example of authoritarian mindset and a reflection of extremism. However, enforcers of such draconian laws must know that no one should be stoned, while living in a glass house. The country has not seen such oppressive restrictions even in the worst dictatorships.

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The SCBA 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.

Bhoon said, “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.”

As far as the amendment in Section 181 of Election (Amendment) Act 2017 is concerned, he said that the permission granted under the guise of said Ordinance to members of parliament, provincial assembly or public office holders to visit and take part in election campaigns is corresponding to pre-poll rigging. It will adversely affect the electoral process and shall add harshness in election campaigns.

The PBC vice-chairman, Chaudhry, and Chairman Executive Committee of Council Muhammad Masood Chishti said it is an attempt to impose restrictions on the freedom of expression and dissenting voices of media. They expressed their concerns and were of the view that the government is aimed to clamp down on critics and those who work towards upholding the rule of law through this amendment.

They further said that the laws already exist to protect institutions and this ordinance seems only to suppress the freedom of media, which is a violation of constitutional rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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