LAHORE – The Lahore High Court (LHC) has directed the federal government to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act (PECA) in order to authorise the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for blocking social media websites and information systems on not removing the blasphemous content posted on them.

The court also directed the government to add punishments in Section 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, pertaining to blasphemy, in Section 9 of the PECA which describes punishments for crimes relating to terrorism, proscribed organisations, etc, Dawn news reported.

“A bill [must] be tabled before the Parliament for deliberations and decision about [an] amendment in Section 37 of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act, 2016 to authorise the PTA to block information systems in case service providers failed to remove blasphemous content,” Dawn quoted the detailed verdict issued by the court on Monday.

Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan announced the verdict on a petition seeking action against people involved in posting blasphemous material on Facebook and other social media websites.

In this case, the PTA director general assured the court that all such websites would be blocked at once if they failed to take decisive action against the blasphemous content within a period of two months.

Justice Khan observed that such material was enough inciting to create wide-scale public unrest and outrage amongst the Muslim majority of the Islamic ideological state.

“When an act is declared to be an offence, it is the responsibility of the state to take all legal measures, firstly to prevent such crimes and secondly, if the said offence is committed then bring the culprits to book, put them before the court for an ultimate decision,” the judge observed.

He further said, “In short, freedom of speech and information and restrictions imposed there-against, could be explained in [the] sentence ‘liberty of one ends where the nose of other starts”.