LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has quashed an FIR registered under electronic crime law against a man for uploading a video on social media about a superstore for allegedly selling a non-halal product.

Usman Zulfiqar Khan, the petitioner, says he purchased “Ragu Sauce” from the superstore and took it home. He says after his family consumed the sauce, they read its label and found that it was not halal as pork was one of its active ingredients.

The petitioner says the import and sale of non-halal goods was strictly prohibited in Pakistan and he could not even imagine that the superstore would openly sell such products.

He uploaded a video on Facebook about the incident and accused the superstore of being involved in illegal sale of pork products in the country.

The superstore lodged a complaint with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016 (Peca), accusing the petitioner of defamation.

The FIA initiated an inquiry and on its conclusion registered an FIR for offences under sections 20 and 24 of the Peca, read with section 500 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC).

The petitioner’s counsel argued before the court that not only the FIR but all the proceedings conducted after its registration were void ab initio. He said the petitioner did not commit any defamation for which he might be prosecuted.

The counsel said the petitioner purchased the sauce from the superstore which contained pork that is forbidden in Islam. He said as a Muslim it was petitioner’s duty to inform his countrymen to avoid consumption of the product, which he did through the impugned video.

He said the video contained true statement of facts, so none of the sections under which he had been charged were attracted.

In addition to questioning the maintainability of the petition, a counsel for the superstore also said the petitioner’s plea of religious service was a farce. He said the petitioner’s real object was to take revenge from the superstore because it rejected his claim.

In his verdict, Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh observes that the impugned FIR is void ab initio having been registered in violation of law.

He notes that the charge against the petitioner is groundless and there is no probability of him being convicted.

The judge maintains there is no evidence to rebut the petitioner’s claim that he purchased the sauce from the superstore and the impugned video was a wily subterfuge.

“This petition is accepted with costs. The FIR and the proceedings pending before the magistrate are quashed,” the judge concludes the verdict.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2022

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