LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has directed the Punjab Safe City Authority (PSCA) to hold an inquiry into the incidents of videos and pictures of the citizens taken by its cameras that were leaked, going viral on social media.

Justice Jawad Hassan issued the order in a public interest petition filed by Salman Sufi, a social activist who works for women empowerment and gender reforms.

The petition was filed in 2019 in the wake of multiple incidents of blackmailing of women through release of the CCTV footage or secretly filmed videos.

In the written order of the last hearing, the judge expressed serious concern at the footage and images taken from the CCTV cameras of the PSCA going viral on social media.

The judge directed the counsel for the petitioner to provide a list of such breaches to the chief operating officer of the PSCA who, on receipt of such material, shall undertake preliminary inquiry and submit a report before the next date of hearing.

An assistant advocate general has been directed to ensure compliance of the order.

Justice Hassan also sought a report from the federal government on actions taken or to be taken with respect to instances of cybercrime highlighted in the petition.

The judge would resume hearing on Feb 8.

Advocate Ans Mashood, the petitioner’s counsel, had stated that there were various incidents wherein the owners/staff of the internet cafes or cinemas had secretly recorded videos or photos of the activities of their customers by using night vision cameras or CCTV cameras. He said the perpetrators had uploaded the videos on websites or leaked to the general public through CDs, which resulted in loss of life of many people but the culprits had not yet been identified, rather no stern action had been taken against them.

Mr Sufi, in his petition, pleads that the right to privacy, especially pertaining to personal information, is inherently compounded and recognised in the laws of Pakistan but due to a lack of specific attribution, it remains dormant with tacit ascriptions in other laws, resulting in deprivation of liberty and dignity for the citizens. He asks the court to declare the installation and operation of CCTV cameras at any place accessible to the general public without displaying proper notice or signage of the surveillance unconstitutional and amounting to breach of privacy.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2022

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