KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to suspend access to social media platform TikTok till July 8.

A single-judge bench of SHC headed by Justice Kausar Sultana Hussain issued notices to the ministry of information technology and telecommunication, PTA, TikTok app through its directors and the deputy attorney general for next hearing.

These directives were issued during the hearing of a suit filed by a citizen seeking suspension of the short video-sharing app for “spreading immorality and obscenity” in the country.

The plaintiff Kamran Mujeeb through his counsel submitted that he was actively using the app since 2019 and it was mainly popular among the younger generation across the globe.

Citizen seeks suspension of app for ‘spreading immorality and obscenity’

The lawyers for the plaintiff Maaz Waheed and Asad Ashfaq contended that on account of excessive and continuous spread of immorality and obscenity, the Peshawar High Court through an interim order had imposed a ban on the operations of TikTok in March.

However, in the subsequent hearing, the PHC had lifted the ban after a representative of PTA had asserted that they had communicated with the management of the app and it assured the regulatory body that they will regulate the content posted on TikTok in Pakistan in line with local laws and to block accounts spreading vulgarity, they maintained.

The lawyers further argued that the management of the app was paying no heed to the undertakings and assurances it had given in various courts and the PTA and also showing no respect for the laws and basic injunctions of Islam as well as the culture of Pakistan.

They asserted that the app has recently started a social media campaign “LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Pride Month” and after being aggrieved by this, the plaintiff filed a complaint on June 14 under rule 5 of Removal and Blocking of Unlawful Online Contents Rules 2020 before the PTA asking it to impose an immediate ban on TikTok, but to no avail so far.

Subsequently, the counsel argued that the plaintiff had approached PTA on June 21 seeking urgent fixation or hearing of the complaint in question, but the regulatory authority had again turned down the request, leaving the plaintiff with no option but to file this suit.

The lawyers for plaintiff have also filed an application along with the suit seeking suspension of operations and access to TikTok application in Pakistan till the pendency of these proceedings or till deciding his complaint filed with PTA.

After a preliminary hearing, the SHC bench in its interim order said, “Let notice be issued to the defendants as well as DAG Pakistan for 08.07.2021 and till then the defendant No. 2 [PTA] is hereby directed to suspend the operations of and/or access to the TikTok application in Pakistan”.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2021

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