Federal secretary asked to speed up legislation for personal data protection

Published April 21, 2021
The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar granted one month to the secretary to submit a progress report on a request of a federal law officer. — Wikimedia Commons/File
The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar granted one month to the secretary to submit a progress report on a request of a federal law officer. — Wikimedia Commons/File

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the federal secretary, ministry of information technology and telecommunication, to expedite the process after it was informed that the proposed legislation regarding personal data protection of citizens was in the consultative phase.

The two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar granted one month to the secretary to submit a progress report on a request of a federal law officer.

When the bench took up a petition seeking an investigation into reports regarding a data breach of 115 million mobile phone users in Pakistan and its sale on the darknet for hearing, an AAG filed comments on behalf of the ministry of IT and telecommunication.

In its reply, the ministry stated that the draft of a Personal Data Protection Bill was ready and it was in the consultative process.

Petition seeks probe into data breach of 115m mobile phone users in country

The AAG, Hussain Bohra, submitted that after the completion of the consultative process with the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the bill would be placed before the federal cabinet for approval and thereafter the legislation process would be completed.

When the bench asked why the matter was being delayed, the AAG contended that since there was only 50 per cent attendance in the offices due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the consultative process was being delayed [because of the shortage of manpower].

However, he assured the bench that he would remind the secretary of the ministry of IT and telecommunication to expedite the process so that the bill be placed before the cabinet and the legislative process be initiated.

On an AAG request, the bench granted 30 days for filing a progress report and directed its office to transmit a copy of the order to the secretary of the ministry IT and telecommunication and the attorney general for compliance.

Earlier, the bench had also directed the PTA to take all necessary preventive steps to save the mobile users’ data while a cybersecurity researcher of the PTA said an investigation was being conducted and the report was going to be completed soon.

The petitioner, Advocate Tariq Mansoor, had contended in the petition that there were reports of personal data breach of 115m Pakistani mobile phone users allegedly by the telecom service providers and the same was being shown on the darknet by some cybercriminals, who were demanding 300BTC ($2.1 billion) for the sale of the data.

He further argued that the data, including full names, complete addresses and CNICs of cellular users, was reportedly put for online sale and it was very alarming and affecting the privacy of citizens.

Vawda’s plea

The Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday informed the same bench during the hearing of a petition filed by Federal Minister Faisal Vawda challenging the jurisdiction of the ECP to hear complaints against him as the contract of the counsel engaged by it had expired.

The ECP law officer further submitted that now the assistant attorney general [AAG] would proceed in the present case on behalf of the ECP.

However, the bench adjourned the hearing till April 30 after the AAG requested for time to prepare the brief to argue the case.

The petitioner, through his lawyer, approached the SHC and contended that he was dissatisfied with the Feb 24 order of the ECP dismissing his application in which he had sought dismissal of all complaints pending against the petitioner seeking his disqualification.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2021

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