By a majority vote, the Supreme Court has rejected Justice Qazi Faez Isa request to live broadcast the hearing of his review petition against the apex court’s June 19, 2020 order. “By a majority of 6-to-4 (Maqbool Baqar, J; Manzoor Ahmad Malik, J; Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhcl, J and Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, J dissenting), Civil Miscellaneous Application No 1243 of 2021 is dismissed,” said the order announced by Justice Umar Ata Bandial in an open court on Tuesday.
“However, the right of the people to have access to information in matters of public importance under Article 19-A of the Constitution is recognized, the details and modalities of which are to be decided by the full court on the administrative side,” said the order. Four of the judges in the 10- judge bench – Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Manzoor Ahmad Malik and Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel – disposed of Justice Isa application.
The minority opinion said Article 19-A of the Constitution creates an obligation on state institutions, including the judiciary, to take the necessary measures to ensure realization of the fundamental right of citizens to have access to information in matters of public importance. It said cases under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, including review petitions and other matters arising therein, are matters of public importance, and the public has a right to know and see how proceedings in these cases are conducted and concluded by the court.
“We, therefore, hold that live streaming (audio and video) of court hearings of these cases should be made available for information of the public through a link on the official website of this court. “For this purpose the registrar of this court should take steps to provide for the requisite technological infrastructure and make arrangements for necessary amendments in the Rules under Article 191 of the Constitution to regulate its practice and procedure in this regard.”
It said keeping in mind the current state of technological infrastructure available in the court and the fact that the review petitions filed in the case are fixed for hearing, the audio recording of the review proceedings to be made available to the public through a link on the official website of this court. “The registrar of this court shall ensure that the unedited audio recording of the proceedings of the court hearing of the review petitions is made available to the public on the official website of the court on the same day soon after the hearing and before the close of the working hours,” it said.
Five of the judges in the 10-judge bench – Justice Bandial, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Muhammad Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmad and Justice Aminuddin Khan – in their majority opinion held that “for reasons to be recorded later, this miscellaneous application is dismissed”. However, Justice Yahya Afridi, who also dismissed Justice Isa plea, said the relief sought by the judge would “negate the very spirit of the oath taken by the petitioning judge”.
In his note, Justice Afridi said the right of the public to have access to live-streaming or audio video recording, written transcript or any other medium, of the court hearings in the proceedings of public importance, including those under Articles 184(3) and 186 of the Constitution, is a fundamental right.
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