On the 17th of April 2012, seven individuals, Dr. Awab Alvi, Sana Saleem, Faisal Kapadia, Nazim Haji, Naeem Sadiq, Noman Quadri and Ayesha Tammy Haq, through their lawyer Haider Waheed with Basil Nabi Malik, petitioned the High Court of Sindh at Karachi challenging the arbitrary and random acts of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) in blocking/ censoring and restricting access to various websites in violation of the fundamental rights of the owners of the websites/online forums as well as the public at large, and without affording the aggrieved persons an opportunity of being heard or due notice.
It was prayed in the said petition that no website could be blocked/ censored or restricted without affording the aggrieved parties (including the public at large) due notice and an opportunity to be heard in accordance with Articles 4, 9, 10-A, 18, 19, 19A, 20 and 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, read with Section 6 of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Act, 1996.
The Honorable High Court of Sindh issued notice to the Federation of Pakistan, through the Secretary, Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, through its Chairman, and furthermore ordered the PTA not to block any website other than in accordance with the provisions of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996.
It may be noted that as per the PTA Act, the correct procedure to be followed before blocking or censoring of websites is as per Section 6 of the said Act, which states,
Section 6: Responsibilities of the Authority.—In exercising its functions and powers under this Act, the Authority shall ensure that—
- Rights of licensees are duly protected;
- All of its decisions and determinations are made promptly, in an open equitable, non-discriminatory, consistent and transparent manner;
- All applications made to it are disposed of expeditiously;
- The persons affected by its decisions or determinations are given a due notice thereof and provided with an opportunity of being heard;
- Fair competition in the telecommunication sector exists and is maintained
- The interests of users of telecommunication services are duly safeguarded and protected.
The said petition has not been made to stop the banning of any website or forum contrary to the rules already laid out by the PTA but has instead the objective of bringing the entire process under judicial review to insure its fairness, transparency and to provide a proper system of redress of the parties owning these websites and forums and protect the fundamental rights of the public at large, including internet users, in Pakistan.