In the wake of increased adjournments, the Supreme Court of Pakistan is considering conducting hearings of pending cases via video conferencing.
Justice Qazi Faez Isa, a senior judge of the Supreme Court, made these remarks while hearing a case marred by the absence of counsel due to coronavirus lockdown.
He suggested the use of Skype, WhatsApp, and Telegram for conducting e-hearings.
Justice Isa asked Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Sayyed Qalbe Hassan’s help to resolve the issue.
The SCBA official endorsed the demand saying that he receives multiple calls on a daily basis from counsels informing that they were unable to attend the court due to the virus pandemic.
Even those counsels who are willing to come have no place to stay as the Supreme Court hostel and most of the hotels in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are closed.
As a result, the court proposed the use of video conferencing services to conduct hearings. The proposal has been sent to the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Gulzar Ahmed.
Justice Faez has proposed the provision of Wifi connected smartphones to the courtroom. The number of phones acquired should be mentioned in the cause list as well as at the Supreme Court’s website.
These phones will be installed with multiple applications like Skype, Telegram, WhatsApp and counsels presenting their cases will also be asked to install these apps.
To maintain transparency, the proposal suggests the use of large television screens, connected with phones, for videoconferencing.
After the identity of counsel is verified, the proposal suggested, cases be heard by using these video conferencing apps. And to maintain transparency and openness, the screen of the court mobile phone be mirrored on television sets already installed in every courtroom of the Supreme Court, the proposal said.
Moreover, the record of the court proceedings should also be preserved for at least six months.
Justice Isa has suggested that the task should be assigned to the IT wing of the Supreme Court.
He also suggested trial runs before the finalization. Furthermore, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), the SCBA, offices of the Attorney General, the advocate generals, and the prosecutor generals should be given a demonstration on how the system would work.
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