The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Thursday dismissed a petition filed by singer Meesha Shafi challenging the constitutionality of Section 20 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) and retraction of the FIR by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under the cybercrime law.
The petitioner said Section 20 was unconstitutional as it gagged free speech and overlapped with Section 499 and 500 of the Pakistan penal Code.
About the FIR by the FIA, the singer stated the case was registered in violation of Section 155 of CrPC and Rule (7) 5 of Prevention of Electronic Crimes Investigation Rules 2018. It is also termed the FIR mala fide.
In its ruling, the high court said Section 20 was not unconstitutional as it “is rather in conformity with Article 14 of the Constitution and promotes the right to dignity enshrined therein”. It further stated that Section 20 “does not violate Article 4 and 25” of the Constitution.
“The petitioners contend that Rule 7(5) of the Investigation Rules has not been followed while Respondent No.5 argues otherwise and both of them have produced case-law regarding the effect of its non-compliance,” the ruling said.
“Even if it is assumed that the Petitioners’ stance is correct, they cannot get any benefit because there is nothing on the record which may suggest that they have been prejudiced,” it added. “There is also no evidence that the FIA authorities were dishonest or had malice against them. In the circumstances, any irregularity or defect in investigation stands cured under section 537 CrPC.”
Mala fide or not
About the FIR being mala fide, the court said whether a particular act is mala fide requires factual inquiry which cannot be undertaken by this Court in constitutional jurisdiction. “The Petitioners would, however, be at liberty to raise this issue before the trial court,” it added.
“Defamation is an injury to a man’s reputation. The freedom of speech or expression does not authorize one person to lower another in the esteem of his peers or to expose him to hatred, ridicule or contempt,” Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh observes in a 30-page judgment issued on a petition of singer Shafi and others.
Zafar had filed a complaint with the FIA cybercrime wing in November 2018. He alleged many social media platforms were posting “threats and defamatory material” against him. He also gave details of some Twitter and Facebook accounts to back his case.
During the second day of cross-examination pertaining to a defamation case filed by Zafar, Shafi said Zafar “groped” her during a rehearsal in December 2017. When asked was it correct that there were no eyewitnesses to the incident, she said that she did not see it, but felt it.
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