Legal Remedies to Cyber Crimes in Pakistan

By: Abdul Rehman Nawaz | Faisalabad, Pakistan |The author is a second-year Law Student at Government College University, Faisalabad Living in the 21st Century, all the individuals living in the society are aware of the major and minor issues influencing members of our communities. One such major issue that is in our lives is sexual harassment. Online harassment is a civil wrongdoing and the person being harassed (Aggrieved Party) can take action against any such action being done by the perpetrator. But many such acts against women on the internet go unnoticed due to the lack of awareness of the legal remedies. In the Pakistani context, it has been reported that in the year 2019, more than 2000 complaints and more than a 100 phone calls had being lodged on the cyber harassment helpline Pakistan. The origin of the complaints was mostly from the province of Punjab, then Sindh and the people who lodged these complaints were usually between the age bracket of 20-25 years. Cyber harassment is an offence under the Laws of Pakistan. For this purpose, the Parliament of Pakistan had introduced a bill ‘’Prevention of the Electronic Crimes Act, 2016’’. The purpose of this Act was to provide legal remedies for the crimes being committed through electronic means as well to deter such crimes. The following are the 2 sections of the PECA, 2016 which specifically deals with the subject at hand: 1. Section 19 - Offences Against Modesty 2. Section 21 – Cyber Stalking (Harassment) Section 19 allows for recognition of the offences that are being committed against a person or minor on the internet as the circulation of any material which is intended to injure or harm the reputation of the other person or the circulation of any such material intending to blackmail the other person. This also includes sharing of explicit content. The punishment for such offences which are committed under S. 19 of PECA, 16 is 5-7 years of imprisonment or fine up to 5 million or both. Whereas, the ambit of Section 21 is of offences of harassment or cyber stalking. This includes spying, sending repetitive text messages, or circulation of a photo or video without the other person’s consent. The punishment for the offence under S.21 of PECA, 16 is 3-5 years of imprisonment, fine of 10 million or both. It has been reported though various articles and publications that online crimes against women and overall complaints of cyber stalking and harassment had increased drastically under the lockdown imposed during the recent pandemic. Legal Remedies: Usually when an offence of online harassment takes place, the complaint is registered with the FIA’s NR3C (National Response Centre for Cyber Crime). In addition to it, the complaint can also be brought on the helpline (0800-13518) by the DRF which is for the whole of Pakistan. For the complaints being lodged from the Punjab Province, the victims can lodge their complaints on the helpline (1043) of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW). Online harassment, cyberstalking and violating the modesty of an individual on the internet are all crimes of torts therefore if the victim sees fit, they can also bring about legal action against the perpetrator in the court of law. Note from the editors: While this article is focused on the legal remedies to cyber crimes in the Pakistani context, it is also important to conduct research on what is available within your country as well, and share these resources with anyone who may need them and may be facing cyber harassment themselves too.

Legal Remedies to Cyber Crimes in Pakistan