ISLAMABAD: Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on Wednesday observed that science and technology should be welcomed as they hugely help improve and bring more transparency to the system of justice.
“Hundreds of convictions got overturned because of the DNA forensics and in Punjab monitoring through cameras improved the efficiency of district courts,” observed Justice Shah, one of the members of a 10-judge Supreme Court bench.
The observation came against the backdrop of an application moved by Justice Qazi Faez Isa before the Supreme Court, seeking live streaming of the court proceedings which, according to the petitioner judge, would bring more transparency and discipline in the court’s conduct.
Additional Attorney General (AAG) Chaudhry Aamir Rehman informed the court that the federal government would obviously oppose the plea for live telecast, but could have responded had notices been issued to it.
The AAG requested the court to allow Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem, who had earlier responded on behalf of the government, to argue in his private capacity since he was also a respondent in the case. But Justice Isa, while citing Rule 29 of the Supreme Court Rules, contended that the AAG should have requested the court for notice and not insisted. Besides, he said, the federal government deliberately wanted the decision on the review petitions not to conclude in time to keep the sword of Damocles hanging over his head.
AAG says government will oppose plea for live telecast of court proceedings
Justice Isa wondered why the AAG was asking for notices when he was present during the entire proceedings of the principle hearing of the petition he had filed against the presidential reference. He also regretted that salary of the AAG was paid by the hapless and poor people of Pakistan and, therefore, he could not hold briefing for a private individual.
Justice Manzoor Malik came to the rescue of the AAG by stating that already the latter had enough and should be spared since he was a decent man.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial, who was heading the bench, observed that the court would ponder over the application, saying that no doubt technology had brought evolution to the court proceedings but this was something which had to be applied seriously.
Justice Muneeb Akhtar wondered whether it was the case of Justice Isa that justice did not seem to be done earlier because the court proceedings were not telecast despite the fact that television was available during the eras of 1960s and 70s.
Justice Isa said that then internet and mobile phones were not available.
But Justice Akhtar wondered how it was relevant to the present case and asked if the petitioner judge was asking for live telecast or video link which the court already had.
Justice Isa wondered whether Justice Akhtar was asking a question and said the judge should not be determinative.
Justice Akhtar observed that Justice Isa was here to assist the court.
But Justice Isa said he did not have any answer. “Anything else?”
“Thank you very much,” Justice Akhtar said, adding that he was glad for the answer. He also asked Justice Isa that he should not be argumentative and listen to the question put by the member of the bench first. Justice Manzoor Malik intervened and suggested to the petitioner judge to proceed with the case in his own manner.
On one occasion, Justice Malik suggested to Justice Isa to have a glass of water and then pay heed to his request that whatever he was stating at the rostrum could be quoted by lawyers when he will be sitting at the bench as a judge in some case. Therefore, he should be careful because he is not a counsel but a judge. Justice Isa thanked Justice Malik and said he considered the latter and Justice Asif Saeed Khosa as his teachers.
He then referred to a case relating to Brexit in the UK courts and said he learn a lot from it while sitting in his chambers in Islamabad since the entire case was broadcast live.
Justice Isa contended that live streaming would improve articulation and court manners. “Will the use of technology bring any harm?” Justice Isa wondered and referred to the 1979 judgement in the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case by dubbing it controversial and reminding that one of the members of the bench, Dr Nasim Hasan Shah, who later become the chief justice of the Supreme Court, wrote a book after his retirement and even gave an interview to a journalist in which he conceded that the bench was under intense pressure from the then military government to convict Mr Bhutto. “If any record was available, we could have analysed what really happened and how the court really proceeded and what was the conduct of the judges then,” he said.
At this, Justice Akhtar observed that hearing of that appeal was held in an open court and all canons of law suggested that hearing in an open court did not mean inviting everybody Justice Isa simply said he did know.
Justice Akhtar reminded the petitioner judge that even the US Supreme Court had not allowed live telecast of its proceedings.
Justice Isa observed that live streaming provided a valuable tool and catharsis, adding that in case his request for live streaming was rejected by the 10-judge bench, it would be cited as precedence for all times to come.
“The court is not giving me this right of live streaming but to the people of Pakistan, and by not allowing broadcast, the court in fact is protecting bad lawyers who tell all sorts of stories to their clients by putting all the blame on the court for their defeat. This will also help the counsel and judges to be more cautious in the court. Let us be all exposed and be accountable to someone,” Justice Isa observed.
The case will be taken up again on Monday next week.
Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2021