Urdu update here | English translation by Romessa Nadeem
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has suspended the summons issued by the FIA Cyber Crime Wing Rawalpindi to Asad Toor, a journalist who was recently tortured by unknown individuals. The court also ruled that the FIA could issue notices only at the request of the aggrieved party, while a third party filed a complaint with the FIA against Asad Ali Toor, accusing him of defaming state institutions.
During the hearing, Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court Athar Minallah, while addressing the FIA investigator and lawyer, also stated three conditions for summoning any journalist or citizen under the Anti-Cybercrime Act.
1. The FIA can only consider a complaint if the complainant is the victim themselves and their own self-esteem or reputation has been affected by someone’s comments on social media.
2. The FIA will not issue a notice even after completing the basic inquiry into the complaint. The notice will be issued only when there is satisfactory evidence related to the complaint. The statement of the party filing the complaint will also be recorded first.
3. While issuing a notice to a journalist or citizen, it is mandatory for the FIA to provide full details of the complaint and evidence in the notice.
Chief Justice of the High Court Athar Minallah clarified to the FIA that these notices issued without fulfilling the basic conditions are tantamount to harassment. “We are constantly watching how the FIA is exercising its powers. The court respects the laws made by the parliament but these laws should be used in such a way that one’s fundamental rights are not affected,” he said. The court also ruled that issuing a summons to someone without any reason would have a detrimental effect on their reputation in society. The court directed Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar to guide the FIA about when notices can be issued and under what circumstances it is illegal to issue notices.
Journalist Asad Toor received a second notice from the FIA within a month, which was issued on a complaint by a citizen of Rawalpindi named Fayyaz. The first notice was issued on the complaint of Shiffa Yousafzai, the host of a morning show on the private channel Hum News. During the hearing on Wednesday, Shiffa Yousafzai was present in the courtroom with her lawyer Jawad Adil. Her lawyer also admitted the vague notices issued by the FIA were considered wrong.
The Islamabad High Court has given the FIA three weeks to make a decision while declaring the case a test case, and directed the FIA to complete the basic inquiry in the future and inform the court whether the case even belongs to the FIA or not. Apart from the Additional Attorney General, the court has also sought the assistance of the Pakistan Bar Council and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists regarding Section 20 of the PECA and its use. The court has put the basic question before all the parties whether Section 20 of the PECA is against freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Constitution. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for June 30.