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February 15, 2019 - Comments Off on The State Vs Usman Sohail Butt

The State Vs Usman Sohail Butt


The accused, Usman Sohail Butt, was charged under the following sections of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2016 (“PECA 2016”):

  • Section 3 (Unauthorised access to information system or data)
  • Section 4 (Unauthorised copying or transmission of data)
  • Section 20 (1) (Offences against dignity of a natural person)  
  • Section 21 (c) (Offences against modesty of a natural person)


The complaint was filed by the brother of the victim against Usman Butt. He stated that the victim was married to the accused for two years before the marriage was dissolved. Subsequently, the accused hacked the victim’s Facebook account and used it to post ‘objectionable pictures’ of her along with her phone number. After receiving the complaint, the requisite officer at the FIA obtained data from Facebook headquarters and confirmed that the account was in use by Usman Sohail Butt. Thereafter, a mobile phone and tablet were recovered from the accused. Upon gaining possession of Usman Butt’s mobile phone, the officer noted that the accused was logged in to the victim’s Facebook account. This was confirmed through subsequent forensic analysis of the phone.


The learned Magistrate of the District Court held that the Prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt, and convicted the accused for the following offences under PECA 2016:

  1. Section 3-Unauthorised access to information system or data with imprisonment of 2 months
  2. Section 4-Unauthorised copying or transmission of data  with imprisonment of 4 months
  3. Section 21 (c)Offences against modesty of a natural person—Intimidates a natural person with any sexual act, or any sexually explicit image or video of a natural person with imprisonment of 30 months.

The charge under  s.20(1) (Offences against dignity of a natural person) was not proved and thus set aside.


This was a clear-cut case involving hacking and intimidation through dissemination of sexually explicit material through the hacked account. The conviction was based on statements of six witnesses, corroborated by documentary evidence.

With the cooperation of Facebook, the FIA was able to confirm that the account was in use through Usman Sohail Butt’s mobile phone, and the internet connection was also traced back to him. This shows the importance of cooperation with international entities that can aid such cases by providing data in a timely and efficient manner.

The Court also noted the seriousness of the crime, stating “whenever any objectionable image of a person is transmitted through the information system it can never be fully erased and these images continuously pass from one person to another for an indefinite period”. It further acknowledged the long term impact on victims due to ostracisation from society as a result of such crimes.

This post has been authored by Namra Gilani.



Digital Rights Foundation (DRF) has launched a pro bono online portal for women seeking legal representation and psychological counselling in cases of harassment and gender-based violence. The website works by linking victims/survivors to helpful resources and connecting them with qualified and experienced pro bono lawyers so they receive all the help they need to combat the cycle of violence and abuse.

In light of the #MeToo movement worldwide and the national conversation around harassment, an unprecedented number of women have been coming forward to share their experiences of gender-based violence and abuse.

“The #MeToo movement has opened the floodgates for women’s testimonies and stories; it has also shown us the true scale of the problem as it stands in Pakistan as well as around the world. Institutional support and resources are needed to provide both legal and mental health support to survivors of harassment.” - Nighat Dad, Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation

The aim of this portal, “Ab Aur Nahin”, is to help women who want to take legal action against their harassers but are discouraged to do so due to inaccessibility of resources. The portal ( currently has over 42 lawyers from across Pakistan out of which 26 are women lawyers and the portal hopes to expand its database to include more professionals with the passage of time. We realise that support for survivors of harassment and gender-based violence should be holistic, which is why we also provide resources for mental health counselling on the portal.

Our network of lawyers is built across Pakistan to ensure that women from different geographical destinations can approach them without any hassle. The Cyber Harassment Helpline established by DRF in 2016 has received 2302 calls over a period of two years regarding incidents of gender based violence and harassment. We saw that a large number of women wanted to proceed against the harassers legally but were either financially restrained or did not have access to a lawyer. Keeping in mind these profound reservations of women, this portal is an attempt to cater to their needs so as to serve as a helping hand to these incredibly strong women who did not only vocalize their stories but wish to pursue their cases legally.

Digital Rights Foundation is a registered research-based advocacy non-governmental organization in Pakistan. Founded by Nighat Dad in 2012, DRF focuses on ICTs to support human rights, inclusiveness, democratic processes, and digital governance. DRF works on issues of online free speech, privacy, data protection and online violence against women.

Contact person:

Nighat Dad

Executive Director, Digital Rights Foundation