The controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022, was declared “null and void” by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday, calling it “unconstitutional.”
While hearing identical petitions filed by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists against the controversial Peca ordinance, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued a four-page order (PFUJ). The court had previously reserved its decision.
Justice Minallah stated in his written order that freedom of expression is a fundamental right that underpins all other constitutional rights.
He stated that “free speech and the right to receive information are critical for a society’s development, progress, and prosperity,” and that their suppression was “unconstitutional and contrary to democratic values.”
“The criminalization of defamation, the protection of individual reputations through arrest and imprisonment, and the resulting chilling effect violates the letter of the Constitution,” the order stated.
The Peca ordinance was “promulgated in derogation of the Constitution and the fundamental rights guaranteed thereunder, particularly Articles 9, 14, 19, and 19-A,” according to the IHC chief justice.
He also pointed out that there were no jurisdictional prerequisites in place. The Peca ordinance and its promulgation were declared “unconstitutional” by Justice Minallah, who overturned it.
In February, President Dr. Arif Alvi signed an ordinance amending the Peca law in an effort to combat “fake news.” Experts and journalists say the government’s move was intended to silence dissent on social media and exert control over the media.