The Islamabad High Court on Friday directed Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to satisfy the bench that the recently issued social media rules do not violate Article 19 and 19(A) of the Constitution of Pakistan. These directives were issued by the high court during an in-court discussion on the new social media rules devised by the government. During the hearing, the judge was irked by the PTA counsel’s attempt to cite social media rules in place in India. “Do not mention India here. If India suppresses freedom of expression, will we also do the same?” he questioned. “We are very clear on the fact that we will not allow violation of fundamental rights,” he remarked. “Who recommended these rules and which authority approved it?” asked the judge, to which the PTA counsel said they sought recommendations from PBC. The PBC counsel, on the other hand, pointed out that some of the rules violate rights granted by the Constitution. Justice Minallah observed that the social media rules that discourage criticism also suppress accountability and stressed that no law was above criticism. Addressing the PTA lawyer, the judge said criticism is an important aspect of freedom of expression and should be encouraged. “Why should one be scared of criticism? Everyone should face it. Even court rulings are subject to criticism once published, as long as it does not compromise the trial, and are not liable to contempt of court,” remarked the judge. “Why should the court fear accountability?” Justice Minallah reminded the PTA of the Constitution and democracy. “Criticism is necessary for democracy. It would be detrimental to discourage it in the 21st century.” He said the objections raised by PBC are reasonable. The bench directed PTA to submit a reply in the matter and satisfy the court that the rules do not violate Article 19 and 19(A) of the Constitution and adjourned the hearing till December 18.