CJP hints at online streaming of court proceedings

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Tuesday hinted at making available the transcript or live-streaming of court proceeding, when he said the matter would be taken up in the full court meeting of all SC judges to forestall any chance of inaccuracies in court reporting.

“We have considered this issue and will take it up in the full court,” observed the CJP who was heading a three-judge bench that had taken up a challenge to the August 2022 amendments to the National Accountability Ordinance (NAO) by former premier Imran Khan.

The observation came when senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, while representing the federal government, came up with the idea of making available the transcript of the court proceedings or bringing cameras to the courtroom. “The official record (transcript) will speak for itself if made available,” the counsel argued, reminding the court that he had made this request to all previous chief justices since the tenure of Justice Mohammad Haleem, who served from 1981 to 1989.

Even the Supreme Court of the UK, considered to be the bastion of conservatism, allowed live-streaming of court proceedings during the Brexit hearing, the counsel asserted.

In April 2021, the Supreme Court by a majority of six to four had rejected Justice Isa’s plea to live broadcast the hearing of his review petition against the June 19, 2020, order of quashing a presidential reference against him. But later, the court held that details and modalities would be decided by the full court on the administrative side since the right of the people to have access to information in matters of public importance under Article 19A of the Constitution was recognised.

Top judge terms AGP’s letter ‘thoughtful’ as law officer defends ‘clarification’ sent to parliament

At the outset on Tuesday’s hearing, AGP Shehzad Ata Elahi appeared at the rostrum to justify his letter to Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar, denying any adverse remarks made by CJP during the hearing about the honesty of the prime minister, but regretted what went on social media was not in anybody’s control.

The letter, the AGP stated, was certainly ‘not a clarification’, but he chose to write it since he was witness to Thursday’s proceedings and therefore considered it necessary ‘to keep the record straight’.

“Nevertheless, I stand by what I stated in the letter,” the AGP said, adding that broadcast media and print media were quite regulated and structured, but the phenomenon of social media and YouTube had no such regulations. “I don’t want to use the term fake news, but sometimes it seems as if there is an agenda behind pitting insti-tutions against institutions,” the AGP regretted.

At this, the CJP described it as a ‘thoughtful and responsible gesture’ by the first law officer of the country, while regretting the erroneous attribution. “I have seen some of the material and find it sad, since it was taken out of context and slanted,” the CJP observed.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2023