The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has dismissed the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) and Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) petitions challenging amendments made to the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016 by presidential ordinance, advising the political parties to take up the matter in the Parliament instead.
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah in an order on Friday stated that intervention by the court serves to undermine parliament’s authority in cases that could otherwise be legislatively resolved by political parties.
“It is [political parties’] collective duty to uphold the Constitution by making it workable. When a political party invokes the jurisdiction of a constitutional Court, it, prima facie, manifests that the Constitution has not been made workable,” the chief justice remarked, as quoted in Dawn, adding that “political parties have an important role under Article 89 of the Constitution and an effective remedy has been provided thereunder”.
Article 89 of the Constitution grants the president the power to promulgate ordinances in certain circumstances, however includes a provision requiring said ordinance to be ‘laid before the National Assembly’, specifically before both Houses of Parliament if it does not relate to matters of the purse.
The court also noted that several other stakeholders, including former senator Farhatullah Babar, had already filed petitions challenging the ordinance.
Promulgated by the President Arif Alvi on February 20, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (Amendment) Ordinance, 2022 seeks to regulate social media and clamp down on ‘fake news’, widening the scope of the law and imposing harsher penalties. The move has been harshly criticised by rights activists, lawyers, and journalists, among others, who termed the measures ‘draconian’ and an attempt to “silence those who believe in freedom of speech, opinion, and expression”.