Pakistani court rules against suspension of mobile services
CM Pak Limited v The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, FAO No. 42 of 2016
On 26 February 2018, the Islamabad High Court (the High Court) in Pakistan ruled that the Federal Government and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (the Authority) had impermissibly suspended or caused the suspension of mobile cellular services or operations in Pakistan.
The petitioners in the matter, which included telecommunications service providers and customers, argued that their fundamental rights had been violated through the suspension of mobile services or operations. According to the petitioners, the Authority compelled licensees under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Reorganization) Act, 1996 (the Act) to suspend its services from time to time, on the basis of mere apprehensions of national security risks. In terms of section 54(3) of the Act, the suspension of operations can only be justified if a proclamation of emergency was issued by the President. As such, the petitioners argued that the practice of the Authority to direct mobile cellular operators to suspend operations without prior notice or information was without lawful authority and jurisdiction.
The High Court, having considered the full scope of the Act, agreed with the petitioners, and held that there was no other instance – other than the express proclamation of an emergency – to authorise the suspension of operations, functions or services of a telecommunications licensee on the ground of national security. Any policy directive issued by the Federal Government or the Authority contrary to this provision was inconsistent with the Act, and therefore ultra vires and void. The High Court noted further that causing the suspension of services or operations outside of section 54(3) of the Act may expose the Federal Government or the Authority to claims of compensation or damages by the licensees or the users of mobile cellular services.
In conclusion, the High Court declared the actions, orders and directives issued by the Federal Government or the Authority contrary to the provisions of section 54(3) to be illegal, ultra vires and without lawful authority and jurisdiction.
The full judgment is accessible here.
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