close
Thursday July 18, 2024

Justice Minallah says live streaming of Imran Khan's court appearances doesn't violate laws

Supreme Court judge issues dissenting note on 4-1 majority verdict against live streaming of NAB amendments case

By Arfa Feroz Zake
June 05, 2024
Justice Athar Minallah of the Supreme Court. — Supreme Court website/File
Justice Athar Minallah of the Supreme Court. — Supreme Court website/File

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court Justice Athar Minallah has issued a dissenting note on the majority verdict against the petition seeking live streaming of the hearing of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendment case, stating that there was “no substantive reason” to deny the public the right to have access to court proceedings.

"Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi is the founder and undisputed leader of a major political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI)," the judge stated in the 13-page long document, asserting that live streaming the court appearances of the PTI in the NAB amendment case was not against the laws. 

Last week, the Supreme Court released a detailed verdict on the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government's petition, saying that broadcasting the court proceedings of cases involving politicians can be used for political “point-scoring”. Justice Minallah however, disagreed with the majority 4-1 judgement.

An image released by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) shows former prime minister Imran Khan during his appearance via video-link before the Supreme Court on May 16, 2024. — PTI
An image released by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) shows former prime minister Imran Khan during his appearance via video-link before the Supreme Court on May 16, 2024. — PTI

It may be noted that an investigation was launched by the SC administration after an image of the former prime minister, attending the NAB amendments case hearing last month, was released by PTI.

Khan has been incarcerated in Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail since August last year after he was sentenced in the Toshakhana case. Despite being granted relief in several cases he was booked in after his ouster from power in April 2022, the PTI founder remains behind bars owing to his conviction in the iddat case.

In his dissenting note comprising 13 pages, the justice said that there was no substantive reason nor exceptional circumstances to deny the public their right to have access to court proceedings through live streaming.

He said that the deposed prime minister was the founder and undisputed leader of a major political party — the PTI.

Citing the principles enunciated by a larger bench of the apex court, the judge stated that the public has a fundamental right under Article 19-A of the Constitution to have access to information in its original jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, including the right to know and see how court proceedings in these cases are conducted by the court.

“It becomes inevitable for this court to walk the extra mile to ensure transparency and enforcement of the guaranteed right under Article 19-A of the Constitution by giving access to the public to the court proceedings through live streaming,” Justice Minallah stated, adding that the denial of access to the court proceedings will unjustifiably give rise to suspicions and erode the confidence of the people in this court.

“It is an obligation for this court to be seen as impartial, fair and independent and to dispel any perception to the contrary. The trust of the people will be maintained and promoted by enabling them to know and see for themselves the court proceedings,” he stated.

Moreover, Justice Minallah said that all the cases heard under Article 184(3) had been live-streamed after the successful execution of a pilot project regarding the live-streaming of cases.

“[…] denial of this guaranteed right will amount to violating the principles laid down in the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case,” the note read.

In its detailed verdict, the apex court had said in reference to Khan that when the head of a political party wants to be heard, who is not an advocate of this court, there is a real probability that these hearings may be used for political purposes and point-scoring and in respect of matters which do not concern these appeals.