KARACHI: A local court has directed the federal interior secretary, Federal Investigation Agency director-general and additional director-general to ensure filing of investigation reports in court regarding some 1,200 pending inquiries relating to online harassment, identity theft, pornography and other offences registered in Karachi.

Judicial Magistrate (East) Mukesh Kumar Talreja also told them as well as FIA’s additional director-general to ensure compliance and submit their respective reports within the next 15 days.

The magistrate issued the directives in the backdrop of a series of letters issued to the circle in-charge of FIA’s Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in Karachi, requiring him to submit progress reports in respect of hundreds of complaints registered under Cyber Crime Complaint Registration which pertained to the East and Korangi districts alone.

The judicial record revealed that around 1,200 complaints/inquiries were lodged by the public with the Cyber Crime Reporting Cell of the FIA in Karachi between January 1 and September 1, 2021.

Official’s contention described as violation of law

The trials in these cases, mostly relating to online harassment, identity theft, pornography or cyber stalking, etc, remained stalled in courts as the FIA investigation officers had failed to submit investigation reports as required under the law.

Taking up the matter recently, the judicial magistrate said it had been seen that no report in respect of Rule 4, 5 and 7 was being forwarded to his court and it had come to the knowledge of him that there were almost 1,200 inquiries pending for investigation reports.

He recalled that initially the then circle in-charge had sought one-month time to submit his report regarding delays in the submission of the reports. The magistrate deplored that the circle in-charge as well as his successor failed to submit the respective reports despite issuance of multiple show-cause notices and consequently action taken as per law.

Subsequently, show-cause notices were issued to the additional director, Cyber Crime Wing who, after being served a third show-cause notice, submitted his reply.

In the reply, the official contended that the agency was not required to submit each report before completing the inquiry proceedings since as per Rule 7(3) of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Investigation Rules, 2018, it did not describe to do the same and only mentioned about completing the investigation of cases and not inquiry proceedings.

The officer further contended that the officials followed guidelines as per the standing order (SO) No. 5/2020 issued by the additional director-general dated Nov 4, 2020, therefore, at the initial stage of receiving complaints, the official of reporting centre followed the guidelines of the said procedure.

Therefore, the officer requested the court to vacate the show-cause notice issued to him.

After going through the officer’s reply, the magistrate observed the FIA appeared to be reluctant to submit reports.

The magistrate noted that “such callous approach is pathetic and dreadfully sorrowful and shows an omission to do as the law says which otherwise is an offence and further appearing to be willful disobedience towards the court so also ‘misuse of authority’ which is unequivocally punishable under the National Accountability Bureau Ordinance, 1999”.

He said the additional director had erred and misinterpreted the scheme of law.

He said the purpose of SO was to ease the procedure.

The plain understanding of the rule illustratively articulates that every guideline shall be issued in consonance with the main statute, its rules as well as the criminal procedure code, according to the magistrate.

However, he said, the SO was wholly appearing to be in contravention of law and should not prevail over main statute.

Published in Dawn, January 7th, 2022

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