Gilani announces to challenge ‘harsh’ PECA ordinance

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Leader of Opposition in Senate Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani on Monday has said that his party will challenge the “harsh” Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) law amendments in the court.

Talking to journalists in Islamabad, Gillani said that the passage of the amendments is an “attempt to silence the Opposition and the media as [the government] is scared.”

“They want to harass media, civil society, and social media activists,” he added.

“The Parliament can not be ignored in any way,” Gillani said in reference to the promulgation of the presidential ordinances amending the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, (PECA) 2016, and the Elections Act, 2017.

He went on to say that a Senate session was held on February 17 and the very next day, the government introduced the ordinance.

“They want to restrict media through draconian laws. They want to intimidate their opponents by making such laws,” Gillani said. “Didn’t the media cooperate with them when they were on the container?”

“Those who have made the law will be the first to face it,” he said.

The PPP senator also said that the party is contacting other Opposition parties to seek their support for the Feb 27 long march.

President Arif Alvi on Sunday signed two ordinances making changes in the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, (PECA) 2016, and the Elections Act, 2017.

Under the ordinance, the definition of a “person” has been broadened to include any company, association, institution, organisation, authority, or any other. Furthermore, anyone found guilty of attacking a person’s “identity” will now be sentenced to five years instead of three years.

The ordinance also states the informant or the complainant shall be “aggrieved person, his authorised representative, or his guardian, where such person is a minor or a member of the public in respect of a public figure or a holder of public office”.

Cases falling under PECA will be supervised by a high court and the trial court will have to conclude the case within six months.

“The court shall submit a monthly progress report of any pending trial to the concerned high court and shall give reasons for the inability of the court to expeditiously conclude the trial,” says the ordinance.

Apart from sending the report to the high courts, copies of the progress report will be sent to the law secretary if the case is registered in the Islamabad Capital Territory.

However, if a case is registered in a province, then the copies of the report will be submitted to the “provincial secretaries of prosecution departments, the prosecutor general or advocate general”.

The ordinance also authorises the high court to issue “fresh timelines” of a case if it finds the “reasons” given by the trial court “plausible” and beyond its control.

The ordinance also empowers the high courts to summon federal or provincial government officers to remove any “difficulties, hindrances and obstacles” it finds in the case.

If the law secretaries find that the case was delayed due to the “presiding officer or any of its functionaries” then they may inform the high court.

If the high court is of the view that the delay in the disposal of a trial is attributable to the presiding officer of the court or any other court functionary then they can initiate or “direct commencement of appropriate disciplinary proceedings.”

The ordinance also empowers the chief justice of every high court to nominate a judge along with other officers.