ISLAMABAD: Justice Babar Sattar of the Islam­abad High Court (IHC) granted post-arrest bail on Thursday to a hate speech suspect against production of Rs50,000 surety bonds.

The Federal Investigation Agency’s cyber crimes wing had registered an FIR aga­inst the suspect on Oct 15.

According to the petitioner’s counsel, this was a “unique case” as police arrested the petitioner first and during analysis of his mobile phone, recovered some ‘objectionable’ content from its storage. The agency then booked the petitioner on the basis of the recovered content under section 11 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (Peca), and sections 295-A and 298-A of Pakistan Penal Code, the petitioner said.

The FIA arrested the suspect on a complaint that he was uploading ‘hate material’ on his YouTube channel.

The investigation agency did not find evidence during scrutiny of the petitioner’s mobile phone data, the counsel claimed. The cyber crimes wing registered an FIR on the basis of private messages the investigators found in the storage, he added.

The counsel argued that registration of an FIR on the basis of private messages between two individuals was a “breach of the right to privacy”.

Additional Attorney General Usman Warraich contended before the court that the complainant in the case had alleged the petitioner sent him a blasphemous video through a YouTube link.

But he conceded that the agency was unable to recover the video from the suspect’s mobile phone.

Justice Sattar noted that the alleged objectionable material was sent through Facebook messenger by the petitioner to his friend and since this was a private chat, it was not in the public domain.

“There is no other material on record to establish that the petitioner had prepared or disseminated inf­or­mation to advance inter-faith, sectarian or racial hatred,” the court observed.

Justice Sattar further noted that the prosecution did not place any evidence against the petitioner to show that he uttered derogatory remarks against revered personalities.

He granted post-arrest bail to the petitioner with an observation that the “state has failed to establish that sufficient material exists on record that supports a belief by this court that the petitioner is guilty of an offence punishable for period of ten years for purposes of section 295-A or for the offences under section 11 of Peca and section 298-A and 109 of PPC”.

Sections 295-A and 298 outline punishment for “de­­liberate and malicious acts” to outrage religious feelings and “derogatory remarks in respect of holy personages”, respectively, while Section 109 outlines punishment for abetment of a crime.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2022

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