ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) sought reports from the director general (DG) ISI and the DG FIA in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) former chairman’s wife Bushra Bibi and advocate Latif Khosa’s alleged audio leak.
The Court has also directed the DG (Law) Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to appear in person on the next date. A single bench of Justice Babar Sattar, on Thursday, heard the petition of Bushra Bibi against the illegal recording of her telephone conversation with her lawyer and the release of the same on social media, as well as, on television networks.
The IHC’s written order stated that the breach of fundamental rights of citizens, if established, is not without consequence and it has most recently been held by the Supreme Court in Constitution Petition No 32/ 2023 (Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan vs. Federation of Pakistan) that Article 212(1) (b) of the Constitution promises to indemnify citizens against the tortuous acts of the government or any person in the service of Pakistan.
It added till such time that a special tribunal is constituted for such purpose the High Court may afford such remedy where the rights of citizens are breached due to the failure of the State and its servants to discharge their constitutional or statutory obligation.
The bench issued notice to chairman PEMRA to file a report, wherein, to explain how a leaked private conversation can be allowed to be transmitted on TV channels. It also directed the chairman PTA to undertake an inquiry and forensic analysis of the data available on social media including on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook to determine the accounts through which the information was first released and identify the IP addresses in order to ascertain the identity of individuals who first released such information.
It also directed the chairman to conduct an inquiry to determine the identity of IP addresses and individuals who first uploaded the leaked audio and to do so seek requisite information and assistance from the social media companies, while advising them that such assistance is required under the law of Pakistan for compliance with a Court’s order.
The DG ISI was ordered to conduct an investigation using all technological means and tools available with the ISI and determine independently the identity of those who released the audio on social media (i.e. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook etc) and file a report for the perusal of the Court. “Let all reports and responses be filed within a period of 10 days,” maintained the bench.
It continued, “The DG Law PTA will appear in person on the next date of hearing and explain the details of the report solicited and also whether any instructions have been issued to PTA’s licensees to enable phone tapping. The Director Law for PEMRA will also appear in person on the next date of hearing along with the relevant code of conduct for electronic media that PEMRA enforces and explain whether the audio leaks such as the one been released between the applicant and her lawyer could be telecast on national TV, and if not, what remedial and/ or regulatory action was taken by PEMRA in such regard.”
The IHC bench observed that the Constitution guarantees the right to privacy and dignity and it also guarantees the fundamental right to liberty. Justice Sattar said the judiciary acts as the machinery for the enforcement of fundamental rights and within our constitutional jurisprudence, access to justice has been recognised as a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 9 while the right to a counsel and access to the counsel is a subset of the right to access justice, which cannot be undermined by intercepting and publishing privileged attorney-client conversations.
He further said that the phone conversations of the petitioner continue to be recorded and released while the matter is sub-judice is most disconcerting.
The federal government has already been put to notice with regard to the grave transgression of fundamental rights to privacy and dignity attributed to the federal government and its instrumentalities. The case is adjourned until December 12.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023