‘Being slandered through controlled media,’ Justice Isa tells Supreme Court

Published March 8, 2021
Justice Qazi Faez Isa claimed that he was being public slandered with propaganda against him through controlled media. — Photo: SC website/File
Justice Qazi Faez Isa claimed that he was being public slandered with propaganda against him through controlled media. — Photo: SC website/File

Justice Qazi Faez Isa said on Monday that he was being slandered and that propaganda targeting him was being broadcast through "controlled" media.

The judge made these remarks in the Supreme Court during a hearing on an application moved by him, seeking live telecast of court proceedings of the review petition in his case.

In his petition, Justice Isa said the move to broadcast the proceedings live would bring more transparency and discipline in the court’s conduct.

A 10-judge SC bench, presided by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, is hearing the petition.

"I am being publicly maligned. Propaganda is being spread against me through controlled media," said Justice Isa. He claimed that the government had "destroyed" the media and would now set its sights on social media platforms such as YouTube.

He said if live coverage was allowed of his case then it would be clear for all to see what is "just and true".

"They are afraid of truth and justice. They are scared," the petitioner judge said.

Justice Bandial asked the Additional Attorney General (AAG) Aamir Rehman about the remarks of Justice Isa on restrictions on the media. The AAG responded that while the court had always spoken about the freedom of the media, it had never ruled that live coverage of court proceedings was the right of the media.

Rehman said the federal government had declared Justice Isa's application as inadmissible, adding that "[court] proceedings in review petitions cannot be requested for live coverage," adding that Section 184/3 of the Constitution could not be applied to review cases.

"No new stance can be taken in review cases. The law mentions hearings in an open court," Rehman said, adding that there was nothing in the law about airing those hearings in the media.

Live broadcast, the AAG said, was the right of the media and not any individual's, adding that no media house had requested permission to broadcast live from the court.

"Does freedom of expression mean live broadcast?" Rehman asked.

To this, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah said technology had aided the court in many matters and helped to create ease, citing the example of hearings via video link.

"The federal government should not tell us what to do. Live broadcast is [under] the authority of the court, not of the federal government," said Justice Shah.

The AAG responded that it was the stance of the government that live telecast was not a judicial concern but an administrative matter of the SC.

Justice Munib Akhtar observed that if the government did not have the authority to tell the court about the matter then no one else did either, saying "the hearing is still being held in open court."

The AAG said there was a difference between the live broadcast of parliamentary proceedings and judicial proceedings, noting that the former involved general debate, while the latter were technical and did not use common language.

"We are living in a global village. We have to keep up with the world," remarked Justice Shah, saying there was "nothing secret" about court proceedings and "the Supreme Court is the court of the people of this country."

He said the people could not be stopped from watching court proceedings if they wished to and they should be able to know if any lawyer or judge misbehaved. "The world should know what we are doing," he added.

"There is no use in sitting while sticking your neck in the ground like an ostrich."

The AAG argued that in-camera hearings "have been held many times".

Justice Akhtar noted that six judges on the bench were not present and without hearing them, the court could not give the order for live broadcast since all other judges would be bound by it. "Hearings are conducted in open courts so justice is seen to be done," the judge remarked.

The AAG argued that ensuring that justice is seen to be done did not mean that people saw the decision being made but rather that the decision should be "impartial".

The hearing was adjourned until March 17.

'Best interest of justice'

In his application filed in February, Justice Isa had sought a directive that the state-run Pakistan Television Corporation be directed to broadcast live proceedings of the hearings of his review petitions in the case against him.

In the application, he pleaded the apex court to order the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority to issue written instructions to all private channels that they could not be restrained from broadcasting or live streaming the court proceedings.

Justice Isa said the prayer had been made in the best interest of justice and that court proceedings were broadcast in a number of countries.

During a hearing last week, Justice Bandial had asked the AAG to inform the court what steps the government would take for live broadcast of the present hearing.

The AAG informed the court on Thursday that the federal government would obviously oppose the plea for live telecast, but could have responded had notices been issued to it.

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