Terming the proposal of live streaming of court proceedings as the “need of the hour”, the Supreme Court on Monday agreed with the Centre’s suggestion that the telecast of judicial proceedings can be undertaken and sought suggestions for taking a “holistic” view on the matter.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which had asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to assist it, was suggested by the top law officer that live streaming of court proceedings would benefit all, including the litigants and the lawyers. Venugopal told the bench, which also comprised Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said in many countries, the courts have the system of live streaming the proceedings besides transcribing them. He, however, said it would not be practical to stream every case and guidelines may be laid to decide the important cases which can be telecast.
Calling it the “need of the hour”, the bench took note of the suggestions of Venugopal and asked the parties to give their suggestions to him for framing comprehensive guidelines which may be later approved by it. “In India, we have an open court system till the court is converted into in-camera. Where there is an open court hearing, litigants are entitled to know the progress in their case. The concept of access to justice provides that though a litigant is not in court, they are able to know what is happening in their case in the court,” the bench said.
It was of the view that barring few exceptions like hearings in a rape case, the courts are already open for all and allowing live streaming of the proceedings would further establish the settled principle. “We have open courts in India. Once we have accepted the concept of an open court model, by extrapolating, we are only effectively extending the principle of an open court,” the bench said. It fixed the pleas, including the one filed by senior advocate Indira Jaising, for further hearing on July 23.
Referring to the plea that such broadcast would help in disciplining the lawyers, the bench said, “each member of the Bar must train themselves to be disciplined …We are not being critical of the Bar. We have come here from the Bar but, how many times do lawyers seek the adjournment in cases would also be known to the clients.” “A litigant is entitled to know as to how matters are dealt in the courts…,” the bench said, adding “there has to be performance (by lawyers), neither over performance nor under-performance.”
Senior advocate Indira Jaising said that through live streaming, an official record of the proceedings will be maintained and it should not be allowed to be used for any commercial purpose. “Nobody should make money out of live broadcast since it is for educational purpose and for the benefit of the litigants,” she said. Earlier, the apex court had directed the Centre to file its response to pleas seeking live streaming, video recording or transcribing of judicial proceedings in courts. Jaising, in her plea, has sought live streaming of matters of constitutional and national importance. She has said that the citizens have the right to information and matters of constitutional and national importance can be live-streamed.
She said in western countries, this system was in place and live streaming of court proceedings, including that of the International Court of Justice, are available on YouTube. If live streaming of the top court’s proceedings is not possible, then alternately video recording should be allowed, she said. She said live streaming of Supreme Court cases of constitutional and national importance, having an impact on the public at large, will empower and provide access to citizens who cannot personally come to the court due to socio-economic constraints. The apex court may place restrictions on such videography and live streaming of proceedings in cases where there are “countervailing interests of privacy as in family law cases, criminal law cases, as well as in the interests of witness testimonies in criminal matters”, Jaising said.
A petition, filed by a law student, has also sought a direction for setting up live streaming rooms within the apex court premises and granting access to legal interns.
The plea, filed by Swapnil Tripathi, a student of National Law University in Jodhpur, has asked for requisite guidelines to facilitate witnessing of proceedings for the interns.