Minallah links unity to free speech

SC judge advises judiciary to use criticism for improvement

Jahanzeb Abbasi January 21, 2024
Supreme Court's Justice Athar Minallah. PHOTO: FILE


Underpinning the need for freedom of speech, Supreme Court judge Athar Minallah has said Pakistan would not have disintegrated in 1971, had there been free media in the country.

“If the truth were spoken, neither Pakistan would have been divided nor a political leader [Zulfikar Ali Bhutto] would have faced the gallows. Freedom of expression is necessary for us to become a great nation,” he added.

Justice Minallah was addressing a training workshop on Saturday organized for the court reporters in Islamabad under the aegis of the Supreme Court Bar Association, the Pakistan Bar Council and the Press Association of the Supreme Court.

The judge emphasized that a free media criticizes for the sake of reform, and judges enhance their performance in response to such criticism. “As a judge, we cannot hold any judgment or anything in secret,” he said.

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He said judges should deliver judgments fearlessly, following the law and the Constitution, without being overly concerned about criticism. “A judge who makes decisions fearing criticism after taking an oath is violating his oath,” he added.

He said a judge should be free, and not be influenced by public opinion on social media. "A judge’s life is a public property and he should never try to direct any journalist as to what should be reported. The truth remains the truth. No matter how much falsehood is spoken, in the end, victory belongs to the truth."

He said freedom of expression is a significant thing, and attempts should not be made to suppress it. Whoever speaks incorrectly will be exposed. “Nowadays, the available means cannot stop the flow of information. Everyone can criticize, but after criticism, trust should also be placed in the judiciary. Unfortunately,  more than half of our lives have passed under dictatorship, where there was no room for freedom of expression,” he added


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