Judiciary, media, and politics
In an article ‘Stating the Law’ written by Salman Akram Raja (advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan), published in Dawn on January 8, 2012, he said that “court judgments respond to and affect the milieu in which they appear”. This is important; and the relationship between judiciary, media, and politics may be looked within the frame of current political situation in Pakistan.
Courts in any country are part of the prevailing social system and they are affected by the existing social and political conditions. At the same time, courts can also influence socio-political systems towards a significant change. Using this analogy, this article intends to make people understand the deep and dynamic relationship between judiciary, media, and politics.
In the past, someone me asked a question: Why has the Supreme Court has delayed several important decisions in the recent past or does/did not intervene? To answer this question, I said that there are two pre-conditions of a good court verdict: “(first) not only justice should be done but also (second) be shown that justice is being done”. Just to make it simple, imagine if person ‘A’ (who is a criminal) is publicised as ‘innocent’ by media (frequently and consistently presenting ‘A’ as innocent for a long enough time); the public starts perceiving ‘A’ as ‘innocent’.
The court supposedly knows the reality and wishes to punish ‘A’, but stops (short of giving the verdict) as the public will perceive that ‘justice’ is not being done (the second condition of justice is not being fulfilled). Just to emphasize, a criminal is punished not for the sake of punishing him/her, rather s/he is punished to caution other people not to commit such crimes, as they would expect punishments. Obviously, the second condition of judgment is more important than the first one (for the good of society). In this context, the Supreme Court of Pakistan was/is compelled by the socio-political circumstances to delay its judgments, especially in the last few years.
In the context shown above, Pakistan’s Supreme Court remains a victim of such media campaigns for not making due decisions at due times (on nationally important issues). This is the power of all pervasive private media, which runs generally as a business to make money.
In other words, the Supreme Court is indirectly being blackmailed by the controllers of media (mostly outside the country, unfortunately).
Just to use a relevant statement by Condoleeza Rice: “Today’s headlines and history’s judgment are rarely the same. If you are too attentive to the former you will most certainly not do the hard work of securing the latter”. This quotation suggests that what we presently read/watch through media is deceptive and the writer of history in future would interpret past events in terms of their consequences/effects, not the reportage/process that occurred when the events were unfolding in the past.
Corruption, political uncertainty, pervasive conflict among state institutions, and declining state of national institutions are some of the serious issues that demand the attention of superior judiciary. As a sociologist, I believe that public wishes the due role of judiciary to address national issues.
To conclude, it is imperative that people of Pakistan (at least the intelligentsia and the leadership) should understand the upcoming effects of today’s headlines (events) for taking Pakistan in the positive direction; otherwise the country shall keep on suffering due to the delays in the judgments by the superior judiciary. Let us (media and public) support the Supreme Court to make the prudent and historic decisions to take this country forward.