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Sunday, May 26, 2024

IHC Questions Surveillance and Legal Authority in Audio Leak Case

The court seeks to identify the public authority or agency with legal sanction for overseeing such activities.

The federal government has officially declared that it has not granted permission to any agency to intercept or record the phone calls of citizens. This statement came as part of a response submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in a case where Mian Najam us Saqib, the son of former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, challenged a Special Committee formed by the National Assembly to investigate audio leaks involving him. The court has taken on this matter under the oversight of Justice Babar Sattar.

In the government’s reply, it was made clear that no agency was authorized to record citizens’ phone calls, emphasizing that a judge’s warrant is a prerequisite for such surveillance.

The response referred to relevant legal provisions, including Section 5 of the Telegraph Act, 1885, Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-Organization) Act, 1996, and Section 11 of the Investigation for Fair Trial Act, 2013, which require judicial authorization for surveillance or message interception.

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Justice Sattar, presiding over the case, has instructed the principal secretary to the Prime Minister to submit a detailed report that clarifies whether any permission has been granted or authority delegated under the mentioned legal provisions by the federal government. The court even allowed the option to seek assistance from relevant government departments or intelligence agencies for this purpose.

Justice Sattar emphasized the need for transparency in the report, asserting that the security infrastructure in Pakistan is robust, and any unauthorized recording or surveillance should not be attributed to external agencies acting beyond the state’s jurisdiction.

Simultaneously, the Islamabad High Court has raised essential questions about surveillance of private individuals and the legal status of recorded materials. These questions arose while considering a petition filed by Najam-us-Saqib, the son of former Chief Justice Mian Naqib Nisar, who objected to a parliamentary committee’s investigation into alleged audio clips featuring his voice. The court deliberates whether Parliament has the legal authority to investigate private citizens with no public office and if this authority infringes upon the executive’s domain.

The court seeks to identify the public authority or agency with legal sanction for overseeing such activities. Additionally, the court wants to understand the legal framework for recording telephone conversations between citizens and the measures in place to safeguard their confidentiality.

The IHC aims to determine the entity responsible for any unlawful surveillance and the release of illegally recorded private conversations to the public. This investigation reinforces the importance of respecting the rule of law and the separation of powers within the Pakistani legal system.