The judicial magistrate (South) on Wednesday issued a show-cause notice to the investigation officer (IO) of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for his failure to file a case against journalist Shahzeb Ali Shah Jillani almost three weeks after the registration of a first information report (FIR) against him.
The FIA had registered an FIR against Jillani under Sections 500 (punishment for defamation), 109 (abatement) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code, read with the Sections 10(a) (cyber terrorism), 11 (hate speech) and 20 (offences against dignity of a natural person) of the Pakistan Electronic Crime Act (Peca), 2016.
The investigation officer is supposed to submit to the trial court the police papers of the case, including the FIR and other relevant documents, within 24 hours after a report is lodged. The FIA had lodged an FIR against Jillani on April 6 but has yet to file a case in the trial court.
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The accused, who had earlier secured pre-arrest bail from a district court, appeared before the magistrate today to join the proceedings of the trial.
Last week, a sessions court had extended by a week the interim bail granted to Jillani earlier this month. On the expiry of the previous extension, the journalist appeared before court today to seek another. The district court he approached in Karachi today has reserved its verdict on the matter.
During court proceedings today, Jillani's lawyer denied all allegations levelled by the FIA against the journalist. He argued that the comments made by Jillani in a television show as well as from his official Twitter account did not fall under 'cyber terrorism' or Sections 6-9 of Peca.
Jillani's counsel further said that the first information report (FIR) lodged by the FIA against Jillani was filed with "malafide intentions" and urged the court to extend his client's bail.
The investigation officer of the case, Akbar Khan Mehsood, who also appeared before the court today, rejected the defence's arguments and insisted that Jillani's alleged comments on the television show and his tweet did fall under the ambit of 'cyber terrorism' and thus attracted the given sections of Peca, 2016.
He alleged that Jillani's comments had "created a sense of anxiety" among the public and asked the court to reject the journalist's plea.
The judge remarked that politicians belonging to opposition parties and journalists made comments similar to those made by Jillani "every other day" on the media.
The judge subsequently reserved his verdict in the case, which will be announced on April 27, and extended Jillani's interim bail until then.
He also said that the FIA prosecutor, who was absent from court today, could present his arguments in the next hearing if he wanted.
Allegations against Jillani
A complainant named Moulvi Iqbal Haider had alleged in an FIR that, during an episode of Dunya Kamran Khan Kay Sath on December 8, 2017 Jillani, who was the coordinator of the programme, had "articulated defamatory remarks against respected institutions of the country while answering questions posed by the show’s host".
The petitioner said that the journalist had made remarks against the "invisible security forces of the country" and had alleged that "the law enforcement agencies were directly involved in kidnapping of the citizens, which leads to cases of 'missing persons'."
The complainant said that in the March 18 episode of the programme, he once again noticed that Jillani had passed remarks through which law enforcement agencies had been "directly or indirectly, deliberately and intentionally accused of influencing the democratic system of Pakistan, due to which the solidarity, sovereignty, integrity and security of the state had been damaged and personal sentiments of the voters/general public had been hurt."
He accused Jillani of toeing the "line of foreign agencies on social media and had also been blogging in order to implement his agenda against the sovereignty of Pakistan".