Minister wants proceedings in court recorded

Have already spoken to CJI,must use technology to benefit both litigants and judges,says Sibal

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi | Published: June 14, 2013 3:12:17 am

In a move aimed at making court proceedings more transparent and helping judges cut down on the time taken to hear appeals,Law Minister Kapil Sibal has opened consultations with the higher judiciary to start audio recording of hearings.

“Why shouldn’t there be audio recording of court proceedings? After all,the court is a public place. There may be some objection against video recording of court proceedings. But there can’t be any objection to audio recording,” Sibal told The Indian Express in an interview.

“This information (recordings) will really be meant for the appeals court,” Sibal said. “So when the matter goes in appeal,you know exactly how the trial judge responded,what the witness said,how the witness statement was recorded… If all that is audio recorded,the appeals court will find it much easier to decide many issues. And most importantly,the litigant will be able to access this information because it will be with the court,” he said.

Asked if he expected the higher judiciary to agree,the minister said: “I have already held preliminary discussions with Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir and some other judges on this issue. Since the seniormost judge in the Supreme Court becomes the CJI upon the retirement of the incumbent,I am hoping that Justice P Sathasivam’s recommendation comes very soon so that it can be processed. I will be talking to Justice Sathasivam as soon as the formalities are over to take this forward. I am sure he will also be very open to this idea.” Sibal said he favoured greater use of technology in court work in general.

“Wherever there is a human interface,there is an element of discretion. Courts pass orders every day for service of summons to clients. Many times,due to human interface,the service report says that respondent is not available. Months pass and petitions are not served. We need to use technology to ensure this doesn’t happen. Technology will ensure that such service of process doesn’t take more than a few hours. Once this service process is complete,the onus will be on the defendant to come to court for further proceedings,” he said.

“I am aware of an election petition where a person has not been served for five years which is the term of the person elected. After five years,the petition will become infructuous. This is just one example. Technology is not just for the lawyer and the court. It is also meant for the litigant. We have to use technology to empower the litigant. He should not have to travel 200 km to the court,only to be told that the lawyer has taken an adjournment. With mobile penetration of over 60 per cent,this is unacceptable. Why can’t the litigant be sent an SMS if the case is adjourned without any hearing?”

Sibal said he had asked the other ministry under him,Communications & Information Technology,to develop a computer programme which would,once connected to the court system,automatically send an SMS to the litigant about his matter being adjourned.

What if the courts don’t agree to the use of such technology?

“I must say there are young judges cross the country who are fairly technology-savvy and really understand the power and reach of the IT sector,” Sibal,himself a top lawyer,said. “Many of them are already making radical changes within the system. Even senior judges are keen. But I think we need to work with the courts. I don’t think we have worked with the courts so far.”

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