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Legal experts say live broadcast of SC proceedings can bolster democracy, justice system

Pakistani politicians and legal experts on Tuesday lauded the live broadcast of Supreme Court proceedings on national television, calling it a vital step to ensure transparency and while seeking the continuation of the practice in cases of public interest to strengthen the justice system and democracy in the country.

In a first, the country’s top court live streamed a hearing of multiple petitions against a legislation curtailing the chief justice’s discretion to take up any legal matter for hearing on his own and entrust cases to fellow judges without seeking their input.

The law, which was passed by the country’s outgoing parliament in April but was struck down by the top court the same month, proposes a three-member committee led by the chief justice to decide on such matters with majority vote.

The live proceedings on Monday marked the beginning of the tenure of new Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa after he was sworn into the office on Sunday following the retirement of his predecessor, Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

“This is a good and positive development that will help ensure transparency since I believe everyone should be aware of what is happening [at the Supreme Court], especially in such cases of public interest,” Anwar Mansoor Khan, Pakistan’s former attorney general, told Arab News.

He said live streaming offered a valuable learning experience for legal professionals who could not attend the apex court’s proceedings in person, adding it also upheld the public’s right to know about the details of the court’s proceedings.

“However, this is not a general public forum,” he added. “Therefore, instead of broadcasting live on television, these hearings should be streamed on the Supreme Court’s website or through a dedicated mobile application, allowing interested individuals to access and observe the proceedings.”

Sabahat Rizvi, Lahore High Court Bar Association’s secretary, called it a commendable practice which should be maintained in cases of public interest.

“All cases of public interest litigation should be live streamed online,” she told Arab News.

Rizvi sad there was no harm in live broadcasting such cases, especially when decisions that impact people’s lives were at stake.

“The transparency of the process will leave a lasting impression on people,” she continued.

“Individuals have the right to see how judges and their counsels handle cases, how their rights are defended, and how issues related to them are addressed,” she said, adding that private matters should not be open to the general public unless it was required.

Irfan Qadir, who served Shehbaz Sharif’s administration as special assistant to the prime minister, said judges should also feel accountable to the nation, adding that people must have the ability to scrutinize court proceedings for transparency.

“Open trial should never be avoided in political matters,” he told Arab News.

Faisal Karim Kundi, central information secretary of the Pakistan Peoples Party, praised the new chief justice for live streaming the proceeding, adding the top court and parliament should have their own dedicated web channels.

“Live streaming of court proceedings takes place in different countries through dedicated web channels,” he said, adding that the recent broadcast was done on the national television and watched by the entire nation.

“Creating a dedicated Supreme Court web channel could be a more favorable option than television broadcasting,” he continued, adding it should be implemented for all public interest cases and not be limited to a specific one. Arab News

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