ISLAMABAD: In a first, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has decided to live-stream judicial proceedings for which it ran a trial on Friday.

The court administration has installed the necessary equipment for live streaming and, according to an official, it will be available to the general public by next month.

The streaming of judicial proceedings is not a new phenomenon, as courts in western countries, the US and even a few high courts in neighbouring India allow streaming of the proceedings. Some courts have even established their YouTube channels for the purpose.

In Pakistan, the concept of streaming the proceedings live for the public is comparatively new, as the superior courts in the recent past introduced the e-court facility, enabling a judge to conduct online proceedings and allowing the lawyers to participate through a video link via a protected password.

Mainstream politicians, including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, have filed repeated applications for streaming the proceedings on the LNG terminal reference live wherein the former prime minister has been nominated as an accused.

Former information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain welcomed the decision of live-streaming of the court’s proceedings, however, he urged that cases of the ruling party also be broadcast live.

While the judiciary believes the decision will ensure accountability of judges, the legal fraternity expects it to strengthen public confidence in courts.

Supreme Court lawyer Kashif Ali Malik said since the public will be able to witness the hearings on important political and other high-profile cases live, they will be in a better position to judge the conduct of the courts. According to him, the openness of court proceedings will show that the institution was fair, transparent and administering justice without any fear and favour.

However, judicial sources are also considering the possible misuse of this attempt at transparency, as habitual litigants could take this as an opportunity to record their ‘sermons’ and reuse them for their vested interests.

Another apprehension is editing the recordings of proceedings out of context to scandalise the judges or manipulate the course of justice.

While the IHC administration can regulate the habitual litigants administratively, IT exp­erts say the misuse of contents of the live stream can be checked through different means.

Wahaj Siraj, an expert in the IT sector, was of the view that the Supreme Courts of UK and California and even the high court of the Indian state of Gujarat live-streamed their proceedings. He said the IHC will possess copyrights of the streaming and any misuse will be dealt with accordingly.

He further said that in order to discourage any manipulation of the editing, the court has all the power to initiate contempt proceedings against those responsible.

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2022

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