Home South Asia Pakistan Digital Justice: SC decides first case through video link

Digital Justice: SC decides first case through video link

The country’s top court believes that the system would benefit the lawyers and litigants as they would be able to pursue their cases while staying in their cities instead of heading to the capital for every hearing. The court has hoped that the system would save time, money and make the judicial system more responsive.

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News Desk |

The Supreme Court changed the course of judicial history on Monday as its Quetta registry has issued verdict in the first case heard through video link. 

The apex court’s Quetta registry’s case was heard via video link in Islamabad under the court’s judicial bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Asif Saeed Khosa.

The first verdict has acquitted a suspect, Mushtaq Hussain. During the hearing, the court declared a two-year sentence earlier awarded to the suspect null and void.

During the hearing, the CJP remarked that it was his wish that the hearing of cases had begun from Quetta but due to technical reasons the e-court system started working from Karachi registry.

The apex court had said that the system would facilitate speedy disposal of outstanding legal matters pertaining to organizations and individuals in the provinces.

While appreciating the National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) for providing assistance and making the e-court system a reality, the CJP said that one special bench would start hearing cases through video link in the coming days.

SC Adopts E-court System for First Time in Judicial History of Pakistan

On May 27, for the first time in the judicial history of Pakistan, the Supreme Court connected through an application of the latest video-link connectivity started an e-court system.

According to a statement earlier issued, the apex court had said that the system would facilitate speedy disposal of outstanding legal matters pertaining to organizations and individuals in the provinces. It had added that the facility would initially be utilized to connect the Supreme Court’s principal seat in Islamabad and the Supreme Court Karachi Branch Registry.

The statement had said that the judges would sit in the principal seat and lawyers present in the registry branches would present arguments through video link.

Read more: Digital Justice: SC to use e-court system for first time in judicial history of Pakistan

The country’s top court believes that the system would benefit the lawyers and litigants as they would be able to pursue their cases while staying in their cities instead of heading to the capital for every hearing. The court has hoped that the system would save time, money and make the judicial system more responsive.

Robert Radley Recorded Statement via Video Link in Avenfield Flats Reference

Though the Supreme Court has started hearing the cases through video link, the technology has earlier been put in use by courts.

In February 2018, an accountability court had allowed two witnesses of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to give testimonies via video link in a supplementary reference against the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members with regard to their London Avenfield Apartments.

Judge Muhammad Bashir had accepted NAB’s application requesting the court to allow the witnesses – Robert W Radley, the principal at the Radley Forensic Document Laboratory and Akhtar Raja, the principal at the Quist Solicitors and nephew of JIT head Wajid Zia – to give their statements through video link at the Pakistan High Commission in London. The prosecutor had argued that the witnesses could not come to Pakistan due to security reasons and ‘heavy engagements.’

To overcome the issue, the Punjab Witness Protection Act, 2018 and The Sindh Witness Protection Act, 2013, were passed by the provincial assemblies.

The court while accepting the request had ordered to make arrangements by installing devices in the court for recording witnesses’ evidence.

Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz was completely caught up in the fallout from the leaked Panama Papers over the use of Calibri font in trust deeds. Her husband Captain (retd) Safdar was a witness of the documents.

Radley, being a forensic examiner, had revealed that the type font used in trust deeds of two companies was Calibri which was not commercially available before January 31, 2007, while the documents were prepared and signed on an earlier date. However, during the cross-examination, he had admitted that the facility of Calibri font was available in 2005, but on a limited scale.

Video Link Facility in Witness Protection Programs

Moreover, the lack of state protection to witnesses often resulted in leaving them vulnerable to being bought off, exploited, intimidated or even killed. To overcome the issue, the Punjab Witness Protection Act, 2018 and The Sindh Witness Protection Act, 2013, were passed by the provincial assemblies.

Read more: Accountability court allows NAB to record witness statements via video link

Apart from safe lodging, financial assistance, security arrangements and concealment or change of identity, the laws had ensured that the witnesses would be able to record testimony through video link.

However, the legal experts said, laws are utterly irrelevant if not backed by a commitment to swift implementation, as is evident in both the provinces.

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