“Public Right to Court Access: Justice Minallah’s Dissent on Live-Streaming”

Justice Minallah’s Stand on Live-Streaming Court Proceedings

In a landmark observation, Justice Athar Minallah of the Supreme Court of Pakistan emphasized the importance of transparency in judicial proceedings. He articulated that the denial of live-streaming court sessions violates the principles established in previous cases. His remarks came as a dissenting note in response to the majority decision of a five-member bench that turned down the live-streaming request in the NAB amendments case.

Public Right to Access Court Proceedings

Justice Minallah underscored that there is no substantial reason to deny the public their right to access court proceedings through live-streaming. In his comprehensive 13-page note, he stated that denying such access without exceptional circumstances undermines public trust in the judiciary. He asserted that transparency and openness are fundamental to maintaining the public’s confidence in the judicial system.

Supreme Court’s Discretion and Public Interest

In the May 30 order, four out of five judges ruled that live broadcast or live-streaming remains the court’s exclusive prerogative, to be exercised cautiously. However, Justice Minallah challenged this stance, arguing that discretion should only be exercised under exceptional and compelling circumstances. He emphasized that once a proceeding is live-streamed, discontinuing it should only occur if it serves the public interest for a demonstrably substantial reason.

Impact of Denying Live-Streaming on Public Perception

Justice Minallah warned that denying access to live-streaming could erode public confidence in the judiciary. He highlighted the necessity for the Supreme Court to ensure transparency and impartiality, suggesting that the court must go the extra mile to dispel any perception of bias or complicity. The judiciary’s role in maintaining public trust and upholding justice must be unequivocal and beyond reproach.

Historical Context: Justice Isa’s Case

Justice Minallah’s note revisited the April 13, 2021, decision where the Supreme Court, by a majority, dismissed Justice Qazi Faez Isa’s application to live-stream his review petition hearing. The case centered around a presidential reference accusing Justice Isa of nondisclosure of properties. The majority decision was based on a technicality, advocating for a full court to decide the modalities of live-streaming, despite acknowledging the fundamental right to public access under Article 19-A of the Constitution.

Lessons from Past Judicial Proceedings

Reflecting on historical judicial proceedings, Justice Minallah cited instances where former prime ministers, including Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, faced what was perceived as politically motivated persecution. He stressed that these leaders were not ordinary prisoners but representatives of the people, whose trials were shrouded in perceptions of bias and political vendettas.

The Case of Imran Khan

Justice Minallah drew parallels with the current scenario involving former Prime Minister Imran Khan. He noted that Khan, who faces multiple trials and convictions, is also seen by many as a victim of political persecution. Like his predecessors, Khan commands a significant following, and his treatment in the judicial system influences public perception of fairness and justice.

The Role of the Judiciary in Upholding Justice

Justice Minallah urged the judiciary to be vigilant against any perception of complicity in political persecutions. He argued that the courts must prioritize transparency and be seen as impartial arbiters to maintain public trust. The judiciary must not ignore the realities of perceived injustices and should actively work to uphold the principles of fairness and transparency.

Freedom of Expression and Court Reporting

The note also highlighted concerns about restrictions on freedom of expression, particularly regarding court reporting. Justice Minallah condemned censorship and emphasized the need for open and transparent reporting to ensure public confidence in the judicial process.


Justice Athar Minallah’s dissenting note is a clarion call for greater transparency and openness in judicial proceedings. By advocating for live-streaming as a fundamental right, he underscores the importance of public access to ensure trust and confidence in the judiciary. His reflections on historical and contemporary judicial challenges highlight the ongoing struggle for impartiality and fairness in the legal system.

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