LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Tuesday directed the ministry of information and technology to submit a proper reply which could be consider as policy statement on a plea challenging ban on YouTube in the country.
A division bench of the LHC headed by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah was hearing the case and adjourned further proceedings till March 13. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah observed that after 18th constitutional amendment, policy matters were not in domain of secretaries but ministers should see them.
The judge remarked that it was very disappointing that the statement from the minister was not in the reply.
Earlier, the court had summoned the minister, Anusha Rehman, before the court but on Tuesday a deputy attorney general submitted that due to security reasons she cannot come to the court.
However Secretary IT Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar appeared in the court and filed the reply which court allowed to on records but said it cannot be a policy statement and minister should file it with her signatures.
During the course of proceedings, Justice Shah asked the secretary that on whose orders the YouTube was banned to which he replied that on September 17, 2012 the website was banned on the orders of the Supreme Court.
As the judge asked the DAG to read out the operational part of the orders of SC, he transpired that the court had asked the Chairman of PTA to block the objectionable material from the site.
At this the judge remarked that the court had asked for only removal or blockage of the objectionable material not to block the entire site (YouTube). As the judge asked the DAG as to if there was any directions for blockage of YouTube, the DAG replied in negative. The secretary submitted that they do not have any technology to block the specific material from a website.
During the course of hearing, Justice Shah remarked that no Muslim country but Pakistan has banned this website.
The court was hearing the petition filed by Bytes for All, an NGO. The petitioner submitted that any filtering and blocking on internet is counter productive and predatory.
The petitioner sought directions for the Ministry of Information Technology and the PTA to reopen YouTube. He said taking away YouTube’s access is equivalent of taking away a scholar’s pen. He prayed to the court to order for restoring access to YouTube in Pakistan.
The website was blocked by former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on September 17, 2012. Since then various segments of the society have demanded the restoration of access to the website.
The former prime minister had imposed the ban after YouTube refused to remove blasphemous film.