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Justice Minallah: Live Streaming Imran Khan’s Court Appearance Not Against the Law

Supreme Court Justice Athar Minallah has affirmed that live streaming court appearances of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan in the NAB amendment case is permissible, as there is “no substantive reason” to deny the public access to court proceedings.

In a dissenting note issued on Wednesday regarding the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s petition for live streaming the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendment case hearings, Justice Minallah expressed his disagreement with the majority 4-1 judgment from the Supreme Court. The court had previously ruled that broadcasting court proceedings involving politicians could be exploited for political “point-scoring.”

Justice Minallah’s dissent follows an investigation by the SC administration after PTI released an image of former Prime Minister Imran Khan attending a NAB amendments case hearing via video-link on May 16, 2024. Khan has been incarcerated in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail since August of the previous year, following his sentencing in the Toshakhana case. Despite receiving relief in several cases initiated after his removal from power in April 2022, he remains imprisoned due to his conviction in the iddat case.

In his 13-page dissenting note, Justice Minallah argued that there were no substantive reasons or exceptional circumstances to deny the public’s right to access court proceedings through live streaming. He emphasized that Imran Khan, as the founder and undisputed leader of a major political party, the PTI, should have his court proceedings accessible to the public.

Referring to principles set by a larger bench of the apex court, he stated that the public has a fundamental right under Article 19-A of the Constitution to access information, including the right to observe court proceedings under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. Justice Minallah argued that ensuring transparency and enforcing this right necessitates live streaming court proceedings, as denying access would unjustifiably foster suspicions and undermine public confidence in the court.

He further stressed that the court must be perceived as impartial, fair, and independent to maintain public trust, which can be achieved by allowing the public to observe court proceedings firsthand. He also highlighted that live streaming had been successfully implemented for all cases heard under Article 184(3) following a pilot project.

Justice Minallah noted that denying this guaranteed right would violate principles established in the Justice Qazi Faez Isa case. The apex court, in its detailed verdict, had noted concerns that allowing political figures, who are not advocates of the court, to be heard might lead to political exploitation and point-scoring, detracting from the issues pertinent to the appeals.

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