IHC Issues Notice to PTA and Telecom Operators on Mobile Phone Shutdowns

Justice Athar Minallah of the Islamabad High Court issued notices to PTA , Telenor, Zong and Ufone in a petition against suspension of mobile phone services. The four petitioners are ordinary citizens whose lives were badly affected by suspension of mobile telecom services which happened in Islamabad during the last ten days of March, 2016. The Petitioners have urged the court to declare the practice of suspension of service as illegal. The respondents include the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Telenor, Zong and Ufone. The Petitioners have also sought a stay on further shutdowns, during the pendency of the case.

IHC Issues Notice to PTA and Telecom Operators on Mobile Phone Shutdowns

After the first hearing, counsel for the petitioners, Umer Gilani, commented:

“The citizens whom I represent feel much encouraged. The PTA and each of the Telecom Operators will now have to explain and defend their point of view in open court. On the next hearing, we will also press our application for getting a stay against further telecom shutdowns, while the case proceeds. We would urge the Court to uphold the fundamental right to telecommunication, a right which is already being exercise by more than 70 million Pakistanis.”

The leading petitioner, Masooma Hassan, is an environmental science professional who commutes daily from Rawalpindi to Islamabad for work. While she is at work, the mobile phone is her only means of communicating with her 7-year-old daughter. Another petitioner is a migrant worker whose wife and parents live in a village in the Kaghan Valley and who is unable to talk to them for months, expect on phone. One of the petitioners Mohammad Zohaib is a D.C. based IT expert who was visiting his family members in Islamabad while the shutdown happened.

The petitioners allege that the suspension of mobile service by PTA violates their Fundamental Right to Telecommunication which is derived from the Articles 4, 9, 10A, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 19A of the Constitution and various Supreme Court judgments. The petitioners also allege that the PTA’s actions violated Section 54(3) of the Pakistan Telecommunications (Reorganization) Act, 1996. Under this section of the Act, mobile service can be suspended only when the President has already proclaimed emergency in the country.

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