Using controversial hashtag in tweet not a crime: IHC

Awais Yousafzai
Sunday, Nov 13, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Saturday declared that the use of controversial trend’s hashtag is not a crime and also dismissed the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) case of similar nature filed against a citizen.

Justice Babar Sattar of the IHC approved a petition to dismiss the case filed by a citizen named Kashif Fareed. “The controversial tweet was not defamatory to any individual and consequently Section 500 and 501 are not attracted in view of the allegations in the FIR,” the court’s judgement read.

It added that a complaint under Section 505 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) could only be registered by the federal or provincial government’s order or by an officer empowered by them, which declared the FIR’s registration to be done “without lawful authority”. In the written verdict, he mentioned that merely tweeting a trend does not constitute an offence. The verdict also stated that a case cannot be made unless something is inappropriate in the words written by the person who has tweeted.

The purpose of filing such an FIR against a citizen is only to curb freedom of speech and illegal censorship. The FIA has made a mockery of the state by registering this case, the court’s judgment mentioned.

The verdict mentioned that it is “inconceivable” how the tweet, due to which a complaint was filed against the petitioner, could “cause fear or alarm within the public causing a member of public to commit an offence against the state or against the public”.

The citizen feared that tweeting with the trend might lead to extra-legal action and FIA actually filed a criminal case, which is unimaginable, the verdict read.

The court’s judgment added that it was tragic to instil doubts in the public’s mind through this move. The judge directed the FIA and interior ministry to fulfil their basic responsibility of protecting citizens, rather than getting involved in such cases.

Any challan submitted in any court with regard to the case registered against the citizen and its procedure was declared void in the judgment.