ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) issued on Monday a show-cause notice to the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) cybercrime wing over the “misuse of power”, during a hearing in a case related to journalist Mohsin Baig case. The FIA had raided the journalist’s house last Wednesday in the federal capital, along with the police, and took him into custody on a complaint, containing allegations of defamation, filed by Communications and Postal Services Minister Murad Saeed.
A bench, headed by IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, was hearing the petition filed by Baig’s wife through the Journalist Defence Committee.
During the hearing, the court declared the raid on Baig’s house abuse of power.
‘Won’t let FIA become a rogue agency’
The court observed that the FIA is continuously misusing power on the directives of public office holders, which is alarming. “Such a role by an agency or the state in a democratic country is not tolerable,” IHC CJ Minallah remarked.
won’t let the FIA become a rogue agency.”
Jutice Minallah inquired from the FIA officials about the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and undertaking they had given to the high court and Supreme Court to deal with the defamation cases. Responding to a query by the court, the cybercrime wing director apprised the court that Murad Saeed lodged the complaint in Lahore on February 15.
At this, Justice Minallah inquired if the minister was visiting Lahore on the day he filed the complaint.
When asked if the FIA issued a notice to Baig upon receiving the complaint, the cybercrime wing director said that no notice had been issued.
“Your laws tell you to first conduct an inquiry but you didn’t abide by it because the complaint was filed by a minister,” Justice Minallah remarked.
The judge stated that Section 21 D of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (PECA) doesn’t apply to the case if the remark was made during a TV show, he added.
At this, the cybercrime wing director said that they took an action when the talk show went viral on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
The court inquired if Baig made the clip from the TV show viral and why didn’t the FIA arrest all three individuals who were present at the show. The judge asked the official to read aloud the remark which is claimed to be aimed at defamation.
The cybercrime wing director read Baig’s remarks and said that it contained the reference to the book which is defamatory.
‘Misuse of power doesn’t prevent defamation’ Meanwhile, the additional attorney general maintained that he hasn’t read the book that is referred to but everyone knows what is written in it. At this, the IHC chief justice censured the additional attorney general that he is basing his argument on assumptions.
“The misuse of power doesn’t prevent anyone’s reputation from being tainted,” CJ Minallah remarked, adding that people’s trust in a public office holder is their actual reputation. He said that this court wouldn’t allow any misuse of power. “This was a public office bearer’s complaint and the arrest wouldn’t be justifiable even if it was a random complaint,” the CJ remarked.
The IHC issued a show-cause notice to the FIA’s cybercrime wing director and adjourned the hearing till February 24. It also summoned the attorney general of Pakistan to the next hearing to give arguments in defence of FIA’s case. The attorney-general should satisfy the court on abolishing the Section 21 D pertaining to this [misuse of power] offence of the PECA,” the court remarked.
Moreover, the IHC directed the cybercrime wing director to submit an affidavit containing arguments for why the court shouldn’t take action against him on misuse of power. Besides, the court disposed Advocate Latif Khosa’s plea seeking cancellation of the case registered against Baig.
“Whatever the accused did at the time of arrest is a separate matter. The relevant court would look into it,” the court remarked.
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