ISLAMABAD - An application was moved in the Supreme Court against orders of its Registrar Office, wherein a petition seeking directions for live streaming of the proceedings under Article 184 (3) from the court was refused to be entertained.

Senior Advocate and Member of Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) Mohammad Raheel Kamran Shiekh moved the application contending that the Registrar’s order is legally misconceived and therefore, unsustainable.

“It (order) is not only erroneous in law but is also against the fundamental principles of justice, equity and good conscience and amounts to usurpation of the original jurisdiction of this Court to make appropriate orders in cases involving questions of public importance involving violation/enforcement of the Fundamental Rights of the citizens conferred by Chapter I of Part II of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973.”

The application stated that the administrative order is unsustainable in law inasmuch as it fails to take into consideration that the Appellant/Petitioner in his Constitution Petition under Article 184 (3) raised questions of public importance and that the top court has been very much conferred with jurisdiction to entertain such petitions.

The objection regarding not approaching another appropriate forum, in other words the non-availing of the alternate remedy is clearly misconceived.

The Jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution is only subject to such restrictions or limitations as are expressly specified therein.

“For consideration of this august Court, the Petitioner has raised the question as to whether the non-permissibility of live streaming/broadcasting of the proceedings of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in matters of public importance does not violate fundamental rights of citizens of Pakistan, particularly the right of access to justice without any discrimination?”

This is manifestly a question of public importance in relation to the enforcement of fundamental rights.

So long as any question of public importance in relation to the enforcement of any of the fundamental rights is raised before the top court, the Petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitutional is maintainable.

With reference to Order XVII, Rule 5 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980 the expression ‘entertain’ would be defined in its ordinary dictionary meanings i.e. ‘to receive’. 

“The reasons stated in the Office Order dated 10.01.2019 clearly do not relate to administrative requirements but touch upon maintainability of the Petition, which only the Bench constituted under Rule 7 of Order XXV hearing the Petition has jurisdiction to raise and adjudicate upon.”

The application prayed for setting aside the orders of Registrar and fixture of petition before the bench.

The petition stated that under Section 41 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1925, recording of court proceedings used to be a crime in England and also amounted to the contempt of court, but this position has changed with the implementation of the Constitutional Reforms Act, 2005. 

 “As of now, the media is permitted to broadcast court proceedings and hearings are live streamed and recorded. England is not the only country to have allowed live streaming, broadcasting and recording of the court proceedings. Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Northern Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Scotland and South Africa have also granted such permissions. However, this is not the case in Pakistan,” the petition stated.

 The petitioner contended that live streaming of the proceedings, at least in cases involving public importance, is a necessary extension of the requirement of law guaranteed by the fundamental right to information embodied in Article 19A of the Constitution.

 “Indubitably, live streaming of Court proceedings has the potential of throwing up an option to the public to witness live court proceedings which they otherwise could not have due to logistical issues and infrastructural restrictions of Courts; and would also provide them with a more direct sense of what has transpired.” The petitioner argued that in various matters involving suo moto notices, respondents have voiced their concerns and apprehensions regarding deprivation of their fundamental right.

“While such criticism may not be justified in many cases, there remains a legitimate concern and the scope for regulating the conduct of proceedings to ensure that fairness is maintained all along in every case,” the petition stated.

Live streaming will effectuate the public’s right to know, and that too with radical immediacy while reducing the public’s reliance on second-hand narratives.

It further added that the step will help reduce misinformation and misunderstanding about the judicial process. “Viewing Court proceedings will also serve an educational purpose. Law students will be able to observe and learn from the interactions between the Bar and the Bench.”

“Neither any restriction has been imposed by law while prohibiting live streaming of the Supreme Court proceedings nor any such law imposing blanket prohibition can withstand the test of constitutional validity after enactment of Article 19A of the Constitution particularly in matters involving public importance, such as those brought before the Court under Article 184 of the Constitution.”