Pakistan not first in allowing live streaming of court proceedings

Sabir Shah
Tuesday, Sep 19, 2023

LAHORE: The Supreme Court of Pakistan made a history on Monday by live telecasting the proceedings of a set of petitions challenging the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act 2023.

The law passed by the previous government to regulate the suo motu powers of the Chief Justice of Pakistan was heard as general public witnessed the interaction between judges and lawyers live on their television screens for the first time.

It was in contrast to the normal practice in Pakistani courts, where cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom. Research conducted by the “The News” showed Pakistan is not the first or only country to live-stream or broadcast court proceedings as hearings of the UK Supreme Court are available to watch live and on-demand via the official websites.

Most cases from the UK Court of Appeal are live-streamed on the judiciary’s YouTube channel. Live streaming of selected cases in UK began during 2019 to improve public access and understanding of the court working.

In India, proceedings from the Chief Justice’s Court in the Supreme Court were live streamed for the first time in August 2022.

On August 26, 2022, for the first time since its inception, the Supreme Court live-streamed proceedings of a bench headed by then Chief Justice N.V. Ramana through a webcast portal. It was a ceremonial proceeding as Justice Ramana was to demit office that day. However, the Supreme Court formally began live-streaming its Constitution bench proceedings on September 27, reported “India Today”.

“Supreme Court Observer,” an Indian legal journalism platform, revealed, “The Constitutional Courts of Germany and France are among those Courts that do not upload any recordings of proceedings. The Supreme Court of the United States live-streams only audio. It has not yet adopted video format for a host of reasons that include a desire for anonymity, the worry that sound bites will be edited and comments taken out of context or that the public is not aware of the judicial process. The High Court of Australia (HCA) also does not live-stream its proceedings. The US Apex Court and the HCA upload recordings at the end of the week or the next day respectively. Various courts have chosen various platforms to share their proceedings. Some broadcast proceedings on public television channels, as is the case in Brazil, or through news media.”

It is imperative to note that the proceedings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), a court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa in 1996 or at the end of Apartheid, were broadcast live.

The hearings were initially set to be heard in-camera, but the intervention of 23 non-governmental organizations eventually succeeded in gaining media access to the hearings.

On April 15, 1996, the South African National Broadcaster televised the first two hours of the hearing live.

Not different is the case in Pakistan where miracles in this context are also being expected from the Supreme Court Chief Justice and 15 senior justices to hurriedly devise a mechanism for speedy disposal of 54,965 cases pending in the apex court as of June 30 this year and over two million cases awaiting adjudication in courts across the country.