Kathmandu, April 19
The Supreme Court today stayed the government ban on popular online game Player Unknown’s Battleground (PUBG).
A single bench of Justice Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada issued the interim order in the name of the government in response to a writ petition filed by advocates Pravin Subedi, Bikas Thapa, Anurag Subedi, Suvas Pathak and Ritesh Paudyal and law graduate Binay Rimal against the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Kathmandu District Court, Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Crime Division and Nepal Telecom Authority.
The apex court also issued a show cause notice to the government. The court observed that PUBG was basically a game used by general public for entertainment. Since press freedom and freedom of expression are guaranteed by the constitution, it is necessary to prove that such bans are just, fair and reasonable, and the actions of the authorities concerned are wise and logical, the bench stated in its order. The SC observed that the ban imposed by Kathmandu District Court on April 10 was not reasonable. The court observed that it decided to stay the ban imposed by Kathmandu District Court and subsequent orders passed by the government agencies on the basis of Kathmandu District Court order because if the ban was allowed to remain in effect, it could adversely impact people’s rights to freedom.
The petitioners argued in their writ petition that if someone played any game using internet or any other means, then such acts were related to their freedom of expression. They said the government had the power to impose reasonable restriction on freedom of expression. However, in this case, no ground as stated by Article 17 of the constitution existed and hence the ban on PUBG could not be justified.
The government on April 11 had banned the online game following complaints that besides hampering studies of school- and college-going students, it was resulting in violent behaviour among those addicted to the game.
PUBG, which was released in 2017 for Windows PC and in late 2018 for smartphones, is an online multiplayer battle royale game. In the game, up to 100 players parachute onto an island and scavenge for weapons and equipment to kill others while avoiding getting killed. The last player or team standing wins the round.
Following the government’s ban, Nepal Telecommunications Authority, the telecom sector regulator, had on April 11, directed all internet service providers of the country to block internet traffic originating from PUBG servers.
A version of this article appears in print on April 20, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.