IHC issues notices to federal govt in plea challenging social media regulation
Statesman Report
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday issued notices to the federal government and directed it to submit its reply in 14 days on a petition challenging the draft laws for social media regulation.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued the directives on a petition filed by Advocate Raja Ahsan Mahmood Satti. The court directed the ministry of information and technology and the concerned parties to submit their reply to court within 14 days.
Satti was being represented in court by Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon. During the hearing, Jadoon told the court that his client has challenged the social media rules 2020 put forward by the government. He alleged that the government, through the laws, was trying to stifle a citizen’s right to freedom of speech.
The barrister also informed the court that the draft laws contradict the Constitution. However, Justice Minallah remarked that such regulations are placed all over the world. But the lawyer interjected and claimed that the government was trying to control the social media through the regulations.
“The government should be sent a notice and asked on the status of the rules,” added Jadoon. He said that under the draft rules, the government is planning to appoint a national coordinator to implement the Social Media Rules 2020.
The lawyer alleged that under the law, the coordinator has been given more power than the authority itself. The petitioner said that according to the rules, the coordinator can impose a fine up to Rs500 million on an individual if they violate the rules.
The counsel for the petitioner explained to the court that the rules were in conflict with Articles 19 and 19-A of the Constitution. After hearing the arguments, the court issued the directives to the concerned parties in the case. However, the court rejected the petitioner’s plea to issue a stay order on the rules.
IHC adjourned the hearing of the case after issuing the directives.
Cabinet approves rules
The federal cabinet on February 12 approved a new set of rules to regulate social media, requiring companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even TikTok to register themselves and open offices in Pakistan. The approval has led proponents of Internet freedom worry that the legal document would be used to keep social media companies in check.