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Islamabad High Court bars telcos from call recording for surveillance

The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday ordered telecommunication companies to refrain from recording phone calls for surveillance purposes, warning that they would be held accountable if their equipment was used for illegal surveillance.

The order came as Justice Babar Sattar of the IHC resumed hearing on a petition challenging the alleged audio leak involving former prime minister Imran Khan’s spouse, Bushra Bibi, and Najam Saqib, the son of former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar.

During the hearing, Justice Sattar asked the lawyer representing the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) why they had not submitted their response.

The lawyer replied that they were unable to submit their response due to the holiday.

Later, Additional Attorney General Munawar Iqbal Duggal appeared alone on the roster.

Justice Sattar inquired about the law under which citizens’ calls were being recorded.

In response, the additional attorney general stated that under Section 54, the PTA had the authority to record calls.

The court inquired which law authorised the PTA to conduct surveillance.

The AAG said the legal framework allowed it.

The court demanded clarity on the law governing the recording of citizens’ calls. It also instructed the AAG to provide a formal response and specify who had given permission and who had been authorised to record people’s calls.

The AAG sought some time to file a response.

Upon this, the judge expressed annoyance, remarking, “How much time do you need?” and questioned the AAG when the petitions were filed.

The AAG responded that the pleas came in 2023.

At this juncture, the judge remarked, “According to you, no one was allowed to record calls. If you retreat now, there will be consequences. The law states that the federal government can grant permission, but according to you, permission was not granted.”

The court questioned why, if the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministries of Defence and Interior, and PTA had said no one was allowed, permission was granted. Islamabad Post

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