ISLAMABAD: District/ Session Courts notified for hearing cyber crime cases under Pakistan Electronic Crimes Act, PECA, have not been designated according to provincial populace.
As per official notification, available with Media Matters for Democracy, MMfD, a total of 27 Additional District/ Session Judges (ADJ) and Judicial Magistrates (JD) have been notified for Sindh, while two courts have been designated in the most populous province Punjab.
According to details, the courts have been designated by the Ministry of Law and Justice in consultation with Chief Justices of Islamabad High Court, Lahore High Court, Karachi High Court, Peshawar High Court and Quetta High Court respectively.
An Additional District/Session judge and a Magistrate have been notified in Lahore and have jurisdiction over thirty districts of Punjab including Lahore, Qasur, Sheikhupura, Okara, Jhang, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Narowal, Mandi Bahauddin, Hafizabad, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, DG Khan, MuzafarGarh, Rajanpur, Layyah, Multan, Vehari, Sahiwal, Khanewal, Pakpattan, Lodharan, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rahim Yar Khan, Sargodha, Khushab, Mianwali and Bhakkar. Another Additional Session judge and a Magistrate will be based in Rawalpindi and have jurisdiction over four districts including Rawalpindi, Jhelum, Chakwal and Attock.
Meanwhile, only one Additional District/Session judge and a Magistrate each have been notified under PECA for ICT Federal, Baluchistan and KPK. The respective additional session judges and magistrates will be based in Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta.
A government official, involved with the process holds that the number of ADJs and JDs have been decided in consultation with Chief Justices of respective High Courts, “We had no role in proposing any specific number of ADJs and JDs for any province” he said.
Under Section 44 of PECA, the Government is also responsible for organizing trainings for judiciary on computer science, cyber forensics, electronic transactions and data protection. However, so far the training process is still pending.
Activists have long called for training of judiciary on cybercrimes at the earliest to prevent misapplication of PECA. According to Karachi based lawyer Aleena Alavi, only Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Judicial Academy (KJA) offered training in cybercrimes.
According to a senior official at MOIT, “The course outline is being prepared for training of judges at Federal Judicial Academy (FJA).” The official also shared that provincial judicial academies had also requested for content on cybercrimes. However, he believed that FJA should primarily take care of the training. “Since it is a federal subject, we would want FJA to take the lead”, he said.
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.