Criticism is essential for democracy, observes IHC | Pakistan Today

Criticism is essential for democracy, observes IHC

–Court stops PTA’s counsel from citing India as an example in his defence
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday raised serious questions over the social media rules, recently formulated by the government, and observed that criticism is essential for democracy.
During the hearing of the case, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah warned of serious consequences and remarked that banning criticism in the 21st Century would result in serious harm to the country.
During the hearing, the counsel for Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) tried to quote India as an example but the chief justice stopped him from going into such arguments.
“Do not mention India here. We are aware that there is no violation of human rights. Any wrong move or practice in India could not be adopted in Pakistan. Remember that there is a Constitution and democracy in Pakistan. Criticism should be encouraged,” the chief justice remarked.
“Who suggested the formulation of such rules and which authority approved this,” the chief justice asked the PTA counsel.
The court also observed that the objections raised by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) are valid and the rules represent a particular mindset.
While adjourning the proceedings till December 18, the chief justice directed the PTA counsel to satisfy the court on the next hearing that the rules in question are not in violation of Article 19 and 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973.
The court is looking into the issue ever since the PTA imposed a ban on online game, PUBG, with the PBC acting as amicus curiae.
A petition has also been filed against the Citizen Protection (Against Online Harm) Rules, 2020, which requires all social media companies to register with the authorities within three months, establish their offices in Islamabad, create a data server in Pakistan within a year and block any account that violates the religious, cultural, ethnic, or national security sensitivities of the country. Moreover, political leaders and civil society activists have also voiced serious concerns over the issue.