A court hall in the Supreme Court can be a daunting place at the best of times.
But for those in the visitors’ gallery at the back of the courtroom, it can be almost impossible to hear when judges speak.
The presence of microphones on the podium of judges and also those tucked on the desks of lawyers only accentuate their bewilderment.
“Why are the microphones not being used? Are they in working condition or are they just artefacts?” many are known to wonder.
On Friday, The Indian Express posed this question to the outgoing Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam.
Justice Sathasivam maintained that he made sure he spoke loud enough to be audible to everyone in the courtroom. But he also agreed this may not be the case with all his fellow judges.
“It is for the individual judges to decide when to use the sound system and the microphones. I was always conscious that nobody, including the litigants who have a place in the court hall very far from our dais, hear very clearly when we speak,” he said.
The CJI agreed that you cannot interpret what you cannot hear and it becomes all the more confusing for a listener when opposing counsel are vying for the attention of the bench and there will be several people speaking at the same time.
“It is absolutely desirable if the sound system is used wherever they are required. It should be used particularly when orders are being passed. There are times when we judges deliberate among ourselves too and microphones need to be switched off at that time but when we pass orders, there is no reason why it should not be on,” the CJI said.
Sathasivam said his court had not received any complaint or a representation for the use of the sound system but a uniform practice may improve court services. When asked if he could still do anything about it, the CJI assured he would take the issue up with the Secretary General to do what is in the best interest of the institution.
Asked whether he was in favour of having a seven-week summer vacation for the top court of the country and whether it should be curtailed, Sathasivam replied: “My personal view is that four weeks are sufficient for summer vacation. My fellow judges also think that vacation could be shorter.
That is why this time during the summer vacation, two benches of the court are sitting throughout to dispose of several cases.”
Asked why there had not been a formal decision on curtailing the vacation, the CJI said that it could be done only if the lawyers were equally happy about it. “It cannot be done unless lawyers also come forward and agree to get their cases heard during the vacation. I have proposed reducing vacation gradually to bring the days down,” he added.