SHC Asks PTA, MoIT to Explain Cellular Suspensions

Sindh High CourtThe information technology ministry and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) have been asked to explain the suspension of mobile phone networks in the name of national security.

The notices to file the comments were issued on Monday by the Sindh High Court on a petition submitted by a cellular service provider.

A foreign cell phone network operator has taken the government to court citing massive financial losses. The petitioner is also seeking compensation for the losses.

On Monday, Justice Faisal Arab, heading a high court’s division bench, took up the petition. The cellular company’s representative, Brig. Muhammad Arif, submitted that the firm received an email from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on September 24 containing the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the closure of telecommunication network due to security concerns.

On August 31, the firm had sent a letter to the telecommunication ministry, stating that the decision of suspending cellular services was illegal. But the ministry has not replied yet.

As per the SOP, the directive to suspend services was issued under Section 54(2) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Reorganisation) Act, 1996.

The petitioner’s lawyer, Aijaz Ahmed, said,

“Cellular services can only be suspended by exercising powers described in section 54(3) of this act, subject to imposition of emergency in the country by the president.”

He insisted that the president had not declared emergency on all the dates on which phone networks were suspended. “This is violation of the rights protected under articles 4, 18, 23 and 24 of the constitution.” Ahmed appealed to the court to restrain the telecom ministry and PTA from suspending cellular services in the future except in accordance with the law. The judges issued notices to the information technology and telecommunication ministry and the PTA chairman for November 22.

The deputy attorney general was also told to file comments before November 22, when the plea will be taken up again.

Via Express Tribune