KARACHI: The Sindh High Court restrained the federal government on Thursday from suspending cellphone service “unless it is absolutely inevitable”.
Disposing of a petition against a reported decision to block cellphone service during Eidul Azha days, a division bench headed by Justice Maqbool Baqar directed the interior ministry to issue a “speaking order with cogent reasons and for specific areas and specific duration only” before effecting the closure of the service.
The petition was filed by Tariq Pervaiz who impleaded the interior secretary, chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority and the chief executive officers of five cellular companies.
The petitioner, represented by Advocate Syed Muhammed Nihal Hashmi, referred to a statement by Interior Minister Rahman Malik that he would consider closing the cellular phone service on Oct 26, 27 and 28.
He referred to the suspension of the service during Eidul Fitr days for over 48 hours.
The petitioner stated that over 100,000 Pakistanis had gone to perform Haj and the cellular phone was the only means of contact with them.
Besides, he said, no-one would be able to call for an ambulance in the event of an emergency if the service was suspended. Moreover, the suspension would cause a lot of difficulties for passengers coming to or going out of cities.
The petitioner’s counsel contended that the statement of the interior minister was against citizens’ right to information as guaranteed under the Article 19-A of the Constitution.
The counsel contended that the cellular phone service could be suspended by the federal government under Section 54 of the PTA only after the proclamation of emergency by the president.
The bench, however, observed: “The interpretation of Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunications (Re-Organisation) Act, 1996, shall be done and its implication shall be examined at a later stage in separate proceedings if such are filed”.