• Justice Minullah recalled the decision on the then Justice Isa’s request to live stream the hearing of his petition against the Presidential Reference.
• Recounting the treatment of other former prime ministers, says the court must avoid the perception that it is engaging in ‘harassment’.

Islamabad: Justice Athar Minullah was the only dissenting voice in the five-member bench which… Refused A request to live stream the proceedings NAB amendment case – observed on Wednesday that the decision amounts to a violation of settled principles in a case brought before it by the sitting Chief Justice himself.

“There’s no solid reason, and neither [do] “There are exceptional circumstances to deny the public the right to access court proceedings through live streaming,” Justice Minullah observed in a 13-page note issued on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s note came in response to a May 30 Supreme Court order in which four out of five judges ruled that live broadcasting is the exclusive domain of the court, but over fears of exploitation and misuse of the facility for personal gain. Used with caution to avoid

On May 16, the hearing of the NAB amendment case was held in which former Prime Minister Imran Khan also participated through a video link. No live stream.

The Advocate General of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa requested live streaming of further proceedings but the request was rejected.

The Supreme Court is now expected to hear the case again today (Thursday).

In his note, the Supreme Court judge observed that the exercise of discretion by a bench not to order live streaming of judicial proceedings, for which this facility is available, is only in exceptional circumstances and compelling reasons, legal and It will be permissible.

Further, once the proceedings in a particular case have been broadcast live, it cannot be ordered to be stopped unless the court is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in the public interest, for a clear reason. From, he wrote.

Denial of access would unwarrantedly create suspicion and undermine public confidence in the Supreme Court, he said, adding that it was imperative that the Supreme Court “walk the extra mile to ensure transparency” and ” be seen” as impartial and to remove any impression to the contrary”.

Justice Isa Case

On 13 April 2021, the Supreme Court – by a majority of six to four dismissed A petition by the then Justice Qazi Faiz Isa, seeking permission to live stream the hearing of his revision petition. Presidential Reference against it.

In the reference, which was eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court, the PTI government accused the then Justice Isa of acquiring three properties in London and not declaring his wealth in the returns.

The note explained that in this case, the Supreme Court had declared public access to judicial proceedings in all matters of public importance as “a recognized fundamental right” guaranteed under Article 19-A of the Constitution.

Justice Isa’s application was then dismissed on a technicality: the majority believed that the procedure and details should be decided by the full court, while the minority allowed live streaming in principle.

Lessons from history

The note recalled that when former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was arrested and sent to the gallows by the Supreme Court, he was not an ordinary prisoner or criminal, but “state coercion imposed by a uniformed despot”. were victims of the system, which has reportedly been legalized by the Supreme Court.

“Similarly, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif suffered grievously due to gross abuse of powers vested in NAB,” the note said, adding that they were not ordinary prisoners as their persecution was politically motivated. was considered

“He had millions of followers and the impression that as a representative of the people, he was being humiliated and harassed for no real reason but based on alleged corruption and corrupt practices on the part of unelected officials.”

“It is ironic that another elected former Prime Minister [Imran Khan]… is in jail today and facing multiple cases, some have ended in convictions and have been set aside by the appellate forums,” Justice Minullah said.

He also has millions of followers across the country like other former elected prime ministers. [and] There is certainly no ordinary prisoner or criminal.

The note attacked “the perception of the Supreme Court’s complicity” in such persecution of elected representatives, and added that the court “must now err on the side of millions of followers and their representatives.” That decades later efforts should be made to remove an irreparable stain.”

Courts and judges cannot bury their heads in the sand by ignoring the obvious facts. Restrictions on freedom of expression are evident from the fact that court reporting has also been censored,” the note said.

Published in Dawn, June 6, 2024.

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