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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court in a 6-4 verdict dismissed Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s application through which he had urged the court to live stream proceedings of the court hearing of his review petition against the SC judgment on the presidential reference.

A 10-member larger bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, and comprising Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, and Justice Aminud Din Khan, on Tuesday, announced the order, which it had reserved on March 18th.

Justice Bandial, who wrote the majority order, stated that the reasons will be recorded later. The order said the right of the people to have access to information in matters of public importance under Article 19-A of the Constitution is recognised, the details and modalities of which are to be decided by the Full Court on the administrative side.

Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Mazoor Malik, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, and Justice Mansoor Ali Shah disagreed with the majority, while Justice Yahya also dismissed Justice Faez’s application, and stated that the relief sought by the petitioner would “negate the very spirit of the oath taken by the petitioning Judge”.

He, however, wrote; “I find 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 their fundamental right under Article 19A of the Constitution.”

He directed the SC Registrar to place the matter before the Full Court for appropriate steps as it deems fit, under Article 191 of the Constitution, “to effectuate this fundamental right of the public”.

The four judges’ short order states: “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.

“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, and 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.

“Keeping in view the current state of technological infrastructure available in this Court and the fact that the review petitions filed in the case are fixed for hearing, we direct the audio recording of the proceedings of the court hearings of the said review petitions 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 un-edited 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.”

During the course of proceedings, Justice Bandial announced the short order of the majority and said four judges have dissented. When Justice Isa inquired who those four judges are?

He said the judgement was reserved on 18th March and even after 27 days a detailed judgement could not be passed.

Upon that Justice Bandial remained quiet for a while before he said judges have not yet signed the order.

He told the Justice Isa that the bench had already give him leverage.

“You are nobody to count the days and it is the bench['s] prerogative,” the president of the bench said.

He told Justice Isa that he (Justice Isa) had written letters to the bench members.

Justice Isa replied that letters were on the record and there was nothing confidential about those letters.

Justice Baqar asked Justice Isa that he could argue his review petition, if he so desired. Justice Isa stated he had come prepared “for both the situations”. He told the court that right now he was not feeling comfortable.

Justice Qazi Amin told the judge that if he was not comfortable then they could adjourn the case.

Sarina Isa, the wife of Justice Qazi Isa, told the bench that she had filed a contempt petition against Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry but so far it has not been fixed for hearing.

She said her petition is “very important” as it deals with the sanctity of this court. Justice Bandial said that the bench was not hearing her application, adding that it would be fixed soon.

The case was adjourned until today (Wednesday).

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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