PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) and six internet and cellular companies to respond to a petition seeking orders for the provision of uninterrupted and quality services to consumers in the province.
A bench consisting of Justice Mussarat Hilali and Justice Mohammad Nasir Mahfooz issued notices to the respondents, including PTA chairman and the companies providing internet and telecom facilities, after preliminary hearing into the petition of Mohammad Tahir and five other consumers of cellular companies over poor internet and telecom services.
The next hearing was fixed for July 22 with the court asking the respondents to file comments about the petition before that date.
The petitioners also drew the court’s attention to the abrupt suspension of internet and telecom services by the companies on the PTI’s orders, especially for many days during the sit-in staged by a proscribed organisation in many cities in April this year.
Petitioners also draw PHC’s attention to abrupt suspension of internet, mobile phone services
They also requested the court to take appropriate measures for the protection of their rights and those of other consumers in the province.
The respondents in the petition are the PTA through its chairman, Peshawar PTA director (enforcement), four cellular companies, and two leading internet service providers.
Lawyer Noor Alam Khan appeared for the petitioners before the court and contended that it was the prime responsibility of the respondents to provide quality and uninterrupted modern telecom and internet facilities to their consumers.
He said that it was the responsibility of the PTA as a telecom regulator to ensure that the companies had been providing quality facilities to their subscribers.
The counsel said presently, the number of broadband subscribers had exceeded 100 million mark but those companies had failed in fulfilling their responsibilities towards their subscribers.
He said being the regulator for internet companies, the PTA had also failed to ensure the provision of quality service to consumers and thus it had become a redundant body.
Mr Noor Alam said in April, the PTA had issued a news release declaring that the people’s access to social media applications would remain restricted throughout the province though there was no emergency situation, which would have warranted such move.
He pointed out that not only access to social media sites was restricted but the service of internet was also suspended for many days in an illegal move.
The lawyer contended that it had happened in such a critical situation when a large number of internet and telecom users were getting online classes in their residences due to the restrictions caused by the outbreak of coronavirus.
He said apart from students, other segments of the society were also affected by the suspension of the internet service and the banking sector was among them.
The counsel said the respondents’ act in question was unconstitutional and a violation of the people’s right to information and others guaranteed by the Constitution.
Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2021