In a first, the Calcutta High Court has recorded court room proceedings, setting a precedent in the country where even the top court has been reluctant to permit cameras and microphones inside court halls.
On a directive by Justice Aniruddha Bose, the Calcutta High Court registry made all arrangements and installed a video camera and a microphone inside court hall number 24. The proceedings on July 15 were recorded for nearly 45 minutes.
Justice Bose’s direction came on persistent pleas by advocate Deepak Khosla. He had been trying to convince the judge for long to order video recording so that there is incontrovertible evidence of conduct of the counsel on the other side.
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According to Khosla, he was being subjected to constant heckling and abuses inside the court room and recording could prevent diminution of the standing and authority of the court.
Acceding to his request on a day when the altercation between Khosla and the counsel on the other side reached a flashpoint, Justice Bose summoned registry officials and directed them to take approval from the administrative judge for setting up a camera and a microphone inside the court hall.
The July 15 order by Justice Bose stated that he was allowing Khosla’s request for video recording of the proceedings since there was no objection from advocates appearing for different parties in the civil case.
Mindful of the fact that neither the Supreme Court nor any other high court had framed any rule for such recording, Justice Bose added a caveat that “the proceedings being recorded today shall not form part of the official records of this court”.
The order clarified that the recording would be for the purpose of assistance of the court, and such recording shall not be made available to any party or outsider unless otherwise directed by it.
Justice Bose also added that the “court shall have the power and authority to make necessary editing of the recorded version, removing any part there from which this court considers it necessary to avoid any scandalous or undesirable or irrelevant matter to remain on record”.
As recently as January, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu had dismissed a PIL which asked for installation of cameras inside the court halls of the top court.
The CJI had then remarked: “You want to put CCTV in the court? Right now whatever we discuss in the innermost chamber is also out there in the public. What we discuss among judges in the collegium meetings are also out in public. There is no need for CCTV.”
A similar prayer by Mumbai-based advocate Mathews Nedumpara was not entertained by a Constitution Bench which on Wednesday concluded hearing in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) case. Pointing out that the NJAC case was being keenly followed by a large section of lawyers as well as the public, Nedumpara had requested the bench to allow video recording so that this could be telecast.
In February 2014, the Advisory Council of the National Committee for Justice Delivery and Legal Reforms, headed by then Union Law Minister Kapil Sibal, made a recommendation for video recording of court proceedings and the judiciary’s views were sought. The proposal has been in cold storage ever since.