IHC orders PTA to lift suspension on PUBG

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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has restored the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) video game and set aside the order of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for its suspension, Dawn news reported.

Justice Aamer Farooq of the IHC announced the decision on the petition, on Friday filed by a non-resident private limited company incorporated under the laws of Singapore and claims to have exclusive rights to operate, offer and control the game in Pakistan. The counsel for the petitioner contended that no prior intimation was given or hearing was conducted before suspending the online game.

The petition was submitted under Pakistan Telecommunication (Reorganisation) Act, 1996, and therefore PTA was required to provide an opportunity of hearing to a person against whom any action is proposed to be taken.

It was further submitted that the PTA under Section 37 could only remove or block or issue directions for removal or block and had no power to temporarily suspend the game. The counsel further pointed out that only a press release had been issued and the impugned order had not been passed.

The court noted that the minutes of the PTA meeting in which the order for suspension PUBG was taken, “clearly show that the same are without reasons and application of mind and fail to fulfill the criteria provided under Section 24-A of General Clauses Act.”

It was argued that under the facts and circumstances the action taken by the PTA was without lawful authority. The counsel for the PTA objected to the maintainability of the petition on the ground that a person signing the petition did not have the authority to do so. In this behalf, it was contended that the power of attorney appended with the petition is not registered and also is not notarised either with the Embassy of Pakistan or the Foreign Office.

It was further submitted that no proper resolution was passed to authorise the directors for execution of the power of attorney. It was contended that the petitioner had alternative and adequate remedy under Section 37(4) of Peca as review was provided to any person aggrieved of any decision taken by the PTA.

The counsel claimed that no conclusive action had yet been taken to block the game as it had been suspended temporarily. It was also submitted that on July 9 a public hearing was conducted in which the petitioner also participated and the final decision under Section 37(1) shall be taken in due course.

It was submitted that the impugned action was taken on the various complaints received as well as a letter written by Lahore’s Capital City Police Officer and on directions of the division bench of the Lahore High Court.

The counsel pointed out that the game was also found to be against the glory of Islam; hence the suspension. Justice Farooq observed that sole basis for taking decision of temporary suspension was the complaints received from segment of the public, adding that counsel for the PTA apprised the court that the complaints were with respect to suicides committed by few members of the public and on that basis a letter was written by the CCPO, Lahore.

The court, however, ruled that the PTA did not follow the relevant law while suspending the PUBG. Subsequently, the court set aside the suspension order while allowing the PTA for taking action on public complaints against PUBG in accordance with law. “PTA has already conducted a public hearing, providing an opportunity of hearing to all concerned including the petitioner, it shall pass a speaking and reasoned order on the complaints received by it keeping in view the mandate of Section 37, Peca or any other applicable law within the period of seven days,” the court observed.

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