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April 14, 2021

SC rejects Isa’s plea for live broadcast of his review petition

April 14, 2021

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday dismissed a petition, filed by Justice Qazi Faez Isa, seeking live broadcast of his review petition proceedings.

However, the apex court recognised people’s right to have access to information in matters of public importance, under Article 19-A of the Constitution.

A 10-member larger bench, headed by Justice Umer Ata Bandial, announced the verdict earlier reserved on March 18.

Other members of the bench include Justice Maqbool Baqir, Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, and Justice Aminuddin Khan. “For reasons to be recorded later, this Misc. Application is dismissed. However, 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 Bandial announced the short order in the court.

By majority of 6 to 4, the court dismissed the plea of Justice Qazi Faez Isa seeking live broadcast of his review petition, while four judges supported the plea.

Justice Umer Ata Bandial, Justice Sajjad Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Yahya Afridi dismissed the petition.

While Justice Maqbool Baqir, Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah opposed the majority judgment.

Justice Yahya Afridi, however, in a separate note held that the relief sought by the petitioner would “negate the very spirit of the oath taken by the petitioning judge”. “For the reasons already recorded in my judgment delivered in Constitutional Petition No 17 of 2019, the present Civil Miscellaneous Application No 1243 of 2021 is dismissed, as the relief sought by the petitioner would ‘negate the very spirit of the oath taken by the petitioning Judge’,” Justice Yahya Afridi noted down in his note.

“However, for the reasons to be recorded later, 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,” Justice Afridi held.

The judge 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 the fundamental right of the public.

Similarly, four judges including Justice Maqbool Baqir Justice Manzoor Ahmed Malik, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, while dissenting with the majority judgment, held that Article 19-A of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973 (Constitution) creates an obligation on the state institutions, including the judiciary, to take necessary measures to ensure realisation 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,” the four judges held.

They further held 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 court registrar should take steps to provide for the requisite technological infrastructure and make arrangements for necessary amendments to 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 four judges further noted.

They further held that the SC registrar should 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 end of the working hours.

Earlier, after the court announced its verdict, Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who along with his wife Sarina Isa and daughter, present in the courtroom, asked the court about the names of the judges who gave the majority judgment and those who dissented.

“May I know the names of the judges,” Justice Faez Isa asked the court.

Justice Bandial told the petitioner judge that he would be able to know the names of judges after reading the judgment.

“Are you ready now to argue on the main review petition,” Justice Bandial asked Justice Faez Isa.

Justice Qazi Faez, however, replied that the reserved judgment was announced after 27 days and questioned as to when the detailed reasons would be issued.

“Don’t start counting the days as this is not your prerogative,” Justice Bandial told Justice Isa adding that it was the prerogative of the court.

Justice Maqbool Baqir, another member of the bench, told Justice Qazi Faez Isa that he would get a copy of the court verdict.

“Try to compress your arguments on the review petition,” Justice Baqir told Justice Isa.

Justice Bandial observed that the detailed reasons would take time, and said that it was the petitioner’s right to know the detailed reasons.

“I just want to read the order of the court,” Justice Isa said.

Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, a member of the bench, asked Justice Faez Isa if he could start the arguments on his review petition.

“Can you conveniently argue your review petition today or not? If not it can be adjourned for the time of your convenience,” Justice Qazi Amin asked Justice Isa.

“I am not mentally prepared, but if your lordship say, thin I will start the arguments,” Justice Isa replied, adding that “my lord has admonished me”.

Justice Bandial told Justice Isa: “I am not directing you and if you are not ready, then why we should push you to do so.”

“So much time is consumed. Its better you should continue with your review petition,” Justice Maqbool Baqir told Justice Isa.

Meanwhile, Sarina Isa, spouse of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, came to the rostrum and informed the court that she had filed a contempt petition against Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Minister for Science and Technology. She said that no action had been taken against the minister as well as another government office-holder.

Some [people] had threatened to kill a judge, but nothing was done as well in that regard,” spouse of Justice Isa told the court, adding that former prime minister was sent home after convicting him in contempt case, but the Registrar Office of the apex court had not yet fixed her contempt petition, filed against the minister.

“Madam, my brother had filed a review petition; once he commences his arguments, we will also look into your petition and fix it as well,” Justice Bandial replied to Sarina Isa.

Justice Qazi Faez, however, wondered as to why the contempt petition was not yet fixed. “Sanctity of this institution is very important,” Justice Isa said.

Meanwhile, the court adjourned the hearing for today (Wednesday) whereby proceedings on review petition would commence.

Last year on June 19, a 10-member full court of the apex court, headed by Justice Umer Ata Bandial, had quashed a presidential reference, filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa for allegedly not disclosing his foreign properties in his wealth returns and halted the proceedings pending in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against the Judge as well as the show-cause notice issued to him on July 17, 2019.

Justice Qazi Faez Isa as well as several bar associations had challenged the apex court decision to the extent of the matter, referred to the Federal Board of Revenue, directing to initiate tax proceedings against spouse and children of Justice Qazi Faez Isa.