ISLAMABAD - The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Monday moved an intra-court appeal before the Islamabad High Court against its earlier verdict wherein it had declared the off-and-on suspension of mobile phone networks by the government on security pretext as illegal.

A division bench of the IHC, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Moshin Akhtar Kayani, conducted hearing of the ICA moved by the PTA and issued notices to the respondents.

Later, it deferred the hearing until Tuesday (today).

The petitioners, including the federal government and the PTA, prayed to the court to suspend the single bench order till final adjudication of the ICA. However, the divisional bench said it would decide it after hearing other parties as well.

Malik Muhammad Nasir advocate, counsel for the PTA, stated before the court that the security situation in Islamabad was very poor and the federal government was also celebrating the national day on March 23. He requested the court to nullify the single bench verdict dated February 26 till adjudication of the ICA. The IHC bench declined to suspend the order and issued notices to the respondents.

In his 15-page detailed verdict, Justice Athar Minallah had held that the actions, orders and directives issued by the federal government or authority (the PTA), as the case may be, which are inconsistent with the provisions of Section 54(3) were illegal, ultra vires and without lawful authority as well as jurisdiction.

He had added the federal government or the PTA had no powers and jurisdiction to suspend mobile cellular services or operations on the ground of the national security except as provided in Section 54(3) which was regarding proclamation of emergency by the president of Pakistan.

In their petition, the CM Pak Limited and others had stated before the court that their fundamental rights were being violated owing to suspension of cellular services. They had argued that they were licence holders and had got radio frequency spectrum through an open bidding. The petitioner was being compelled by the PTA from time to time to suspend its services on the basis of mere apprehensions, which infringed the fundamental rights and caused a breach of the company’s obligations to provide uninterrupted voice and data services to the customers.

Similarly, other petitioners, being common citizens, had contended that off-and-on suspension of mobile phone service on security pretext was irksome and a violation of their fundamental rights.

They had further maintained that the practice was also illegal under the Pakistan Telecommunications (Reorganisation) Act, 1996.

They had contended that the mobile phone service usually remained suspended during protests, sit-ins, Muharram, Rabiul Awal, important funerals and chehlums, and sometimes during the Lal Masjid cleric’s sermons.

The counsel for CM Pak had argued services under the licence could only be disconnected either under Clause 6.21 or Clause 6.71 and Sub Section 3 of Section 54, when the president of Pakistan proclaimed emergency.

The federal government, through a policy directive issued under Section 8 of the PTA Act, could not empower the authority to suspend the cellular services in disregard to the provisions of Section 54.

And if operations were suspended under Section 54, the federal government was required to compensate the licensees for the losses, the counsel for CM Pak had added.

The IHC bench said the federal government was not empowered to issue any policy directive under Section 8 of the PTA Act, which was inconsistent with Section 54(3). To the extent of inconsistency, the policy directive would be ultra vires and void, it said.