- Says director general FIA and home secretary will be responsible in case of violation of the Standard Operating Procedure by the agency
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has restrained the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) from making arrests under Section 20 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Act (PECA) Ordinance 2022, Aaj News reported on Wednesday.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah heard the petition filed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).
Director general FIA and home secretary will be responsible in case of any violation of the Standard Operating Procedure by the agency, the IHC said.
The high court also issued a notice to the attorney general, seeking a response from him on Thursday (tomorrow).
During the hearing, Justice Minallah also said that the FIA has already submitted a document of its standard operating procedures (SOPs), stipulating that no arrests will be made under section 20 of the ordinance.
On Sunday, President Dr Arif Alvi promulgated the ordinance to amend PECA. Now, online defamation has been made a non-bailable, cognisable offense, while the jail term for defaming any person or institution has been increased from three to five years by making a change in Section 20 of the law.
The definition of a "person" has been expanded to include any “company, association or body of people whether incorporated or not, institution, organization, authority or any other body set up by the government under any law or otherwise”.
The complainant can now seek defamation and criminal proceedings against the accused as it has now become a cognisable offence.
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 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.
PECA under criticism
The amendments have come under severe criticism from all quarters recently. Amendments include increasing the sentence from 3 to 5 years in case of attack on the identity of any person. Similarly, the definition of a person has been expanded to include any company, association, institution or authority.
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 at the time. The trial court will decide the case within six months and will submit the details of the case to the high court every month.