Pakistan may backtrack on draconian media ordinance

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The AAG told the court there is a timeline for presenting it before the parliament. It has to be placed before the parliament within this timeline. The executive has to adopt them till the rules are there….reports Asian Lite News

Qasim Wadood, Additional Attorney General (AAG), representing the Pakistan government in the Islamabad High Court, said that the government has put the PECA (Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act) ordinance on the back-burner, media report.

He further added that the government can take back the ordinance as the Islamabad High Court while hearing miscellaneous applications against PECA Amendment Ordinance on Wednesday called the failure to place the ordinance before the parliament, an ill intention of the Executive, the News International reported.

The hearing was before a single bench, headed by Chief Justice (CJ) IHC Athar Minallah.

The court inquired from the AAG on what date this ordinance was promulgated. The AAG told the court the ordinance was promulgated on February 18 and was notified in the gazette on February 19. The court remarked failure to place the ordinance before parliament proves ill-intent of the executive, News International reported.

The AAG told the court there is a timeline for presenting it before the parliament. It has to be placed before the parliament within this timeline. The executive has to adopt them till the rules are there.

Adil Aziz Qazi from the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Usman Warraich and others appeared before the court.

AAG further told the court that the different aspects of the promulgation of the ordinance are seen. The powers about the promulgation of the ordinance under Article 89 are given up to what extent. While responding to the court regarding the date of ordinance promulgation, he said that the ordinance was promulgated on February 18 and Gazette was notified on February 19, News International reported.

The court remarked the government has to present the ordinance in the Pakistan National Assembly and the Senate session and said, “It cannot be so that it is presented where there is the majority. You have to tell if the executive does not discharge its constitutional obligations; it has its effects. You have to tell this ordinance was placed when and before which house. National Assembly or Senate can reject the ordinance at any time. The constitution makes it binding that an ordinance will be presented before both of the houses of parliament. If the ordinance is not presented today in parliament, then as to why the court should not declare it ill-intent of the executive.”

The court further observed, “Ordinance has to be presented before both houses of parliament. The executive cannot do this that it presents the ordinance before the house wherein it enjoys a majority. If the Executive has violated its duty, then what will be its consequences? Can the Executive prevent parliament from using its powers for approving or rejecting the ordinance?”

“The Constitution says the ordinance will be presented before both the houses of parliament after it is promulgated. Parliament is supreme. It can reject the ordinance. The executive has no power to defy the Constitution. If any House of the parliament does not reject the ordinance, then it will be presented a bill. The Executive is keeping deprived the parliament of its right to review the ordinance. If one house of parliament rejects the ordinance, then it will stand abolished. The court cannot put this case on the back burner,” the court added.

The court adjourned the hearing of the case till April 04.

On February 20, the government had issued a Presidential Ordinance amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) under which the exemption granted to PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority) licensed TV channels has been abolished.

Criticism has become a crime under the ordinance and the crime will be non-bailable, the police will arrest and hand over the case and the case will be decided in 6 months, according to local news. (ANI)

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