USHERING IN more transparency in the judiciary’s work, the Supreme Court on Wednesday gave its nod to live-streaming of court proceedings, saying this will bring more accountability and enhance the rule of law.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, in two concurring judgements — one by CJI Misra and Justice Khanwilkar and other by Justice Chandrachud — said: “We hold that the cause brought before this court by the protagonists in larger public interest deserves acceptance so as to uphold the constitutional rights of the public, and the litigants in particular.”
Delving into the benefits of allowing this, Justice Chandrachud said, “Above all, sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
Writing the judgment for himself and CJI Misra, Justice Khanwilkar stated that although courts in India are ordinarily open to all members of the public, sometimes they are denied the opportunity to witness the proceedings due to logistical issues and infrastructure restrictions.
This can be addressed by employing technology, the judge wrote. He stated, “by providing ‘virtual’ access of live court proceedings to one and all, it will effectuate the right of access to justice or right to open justice and public trial, right to know the developments of law and including the right of justice at the doorstep of the litigants.”
The court said it is in agreement with the recommendations submitted by Attorney General K K Venugopal regarding live-streaming.
The project, it ordered, “must be implemented in a progressive, structured and phased manner, with certain safeguards to ensure that the purpose of live-streaming of proceedings is achieved holistically and that it does not interfere with the administration of justice or the dignity and majesty of the court hearing the matter and/or impinge upon any rights of the litigants or witnesses”.
As a pilot project, only cases of constitutional and national importance being argued for final hearing before the Constitution Bench be live-streamed initially, the court said. For this, it said, permission of the court concerned will have to be sought in writing in advance.
Consent of parties to the proceedings must be insisted upon, and if there is no unanimity between them, the court concerned can take the appropriate decision in the matter, the apex court said.
The court concerned will also have the power to revoke permission at any stage of the proceedings.
“There must be a reasonable time-delay (say 10 minutes) between the live court proceedings and the broadcast, in order to ensure that any information which ought not to be shown, as directed by the court, can be edited from being broadcast,” the court ordered.
It said that till a full-fledged module and mechanism for live-streaming of the proceedings of the Supreme Court over the internet is evolved, it can be live-streamed in designated areas within the court via intranet.
The judgment touched on the placement of cameras in the courtroom and “reproduction, re-broadcasting, transmission, publication, re-publication, copying, storage and/or modification of any part(s) of the original broadcast of court proceedings, in any form, physical, digital or otherwise, must be prohibited”.
It will also attract prosecution.
Justice Chandrachud said it will “reduce the public’s reliance on second-hand narratives to obtain information about important judgments of the court and the course of judicial hearings”. He said, “Society will be able to view court proceedings first-hand and form reasoned and educated opinions about the functioning of courts. This will help reduce misinformation and misunderstanding about the judicial process.”
The judgment pointed out that the Supreme Court Rules, 2013, will have to suitably amended to provide for the regulatory framework to incorporate the changes.
The decision came on petitions filed by advocates Indira Jaising, Mathew Nedumpara, an NGO and a law intern, among others.