CHIEF Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa’s first day as the country’s top judge started off with a full court hearing on a set of petitions challenging the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023. What sets this hearing apart is that it is being broadcast live on the Chief Justice of Pakistan’s orders — a first in Pakistan’s judicial history.
The Act was passed in parliament earlier this year in an attempt to regulate the CJP’s powers, requiring the formation of benches on constitutional matters of public importance by a committee of three senior judges of the court. The committee would also decide whether or not to take up a matter on suo motu, which was previously the CJP’s sole prerogative.
The live broadcast is considered a welcome step by many among the legal, journalist and even political fraternities.
Journalist and political analyst Mazhar Abbas termed the live coverage a “mini-revolution” in the SC. He cautioned, however, that the “real judicial revolution can only come through drastic reforms. Justice must be seen to be done.”
PPP Senator Sehar Kamran took to X (formerly Twitter ) to state that a “new era begins at the Supreme Court of Pakistan”. However, she pointed out that beyond symbolic gestures, it was crucial to delve deeper and observe how these traditions evolve to uphold justice and the rule of law.
Journalist Asma Shirazi referred to the hearing and live broadcast as “history in [the] making”.
Journalist and analyst Fahd Hussain said the live broadcast symbolises new ground being broken: “Expressions, tones, emotion, faces, diction, logic, questions — everything under intense public scrutiny. Optics may take centre stage in centre court.”
Technology, transparency and accessibility
Lawyer and managing partner at The Crown Law Chambers Abuzar Salman Niazi expressed the belief that live streaming is a “brilliant step towards transparency, access to justice, openness and also education”. He also pointed out the importance of Urdu translations to make the hearings more accessible to the public.
Lawyer and central legal coordinator for Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) remarked: “Supreme Court live! Bravo new world. Pakistan finally entered into the era of technology.”
Lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir argued that live broadcast of SC hearings, especially on important constitutional matters, is a “proper and right decision by CJP Isa”.
“The judges are there to serve the people hence their conduct and actions should be transparent.” He added that this would make the judges more accountable and also “cuts out the unnecessary drama created by reporters about judges and court proceedings as the people can see what happens for themselves”.
“Our judiciary needs to take to embrace the digital age and use technology to make courts and justice more accessible,” said Nasir.
Nasir also said that Justice Isa had shown, unlike his predecessors, that he was not scared of dissent from his colleagues: “Under the previous CJP dissenting notes would be deleted from the Supreme Court website and today the new CJP wants entire proceedings to be in public knowledge.”
Journalist and President of Samaa TV, Nadeem Malik, said that CJP Isa was rewriting history books by showing SC proceedings live. Like Nasir, Malik also pointed to the lack of transparency by previous CJPs: “Many former CJs failed to ensure transparency & justice … Let’s make it a law to show all proceedings of the Supreme Court and high courts on dedicated channels.
“It would go a long way to discourage injustice and eliminate compromise of the judicial system.”
‘A step in the wrong direction’
Barrister Gohar Khan, however, termed the live stream “a step in the wrong direction” with no further comment.
Journalist Hasan Zaidi, meanwhile, pointed out that streaming the hearing is “a great expose of the mediocrity rampant in the legal profession garbed in ‘respectable’ suits.”