judicial system

Live streaming of Supreme Court hearings: Favors the public or an imprudent decision?

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Over time there have been a group of pleas filed in the apex court regarding the issue of live streaming of court proceedings. The notable ones include, a petition filed by Swapnil Tripathi, law student of National Law University Jodhpur, which sought out guidelines to facilitate witnessing of court proceedings for interns. Others include PIL filed by Indira Jaising for video-recording of matters of national importance. The main issue they all underline is that judicial decisions and the laws framed govern the lives of the general public on a regular basis. It is the deciding factor according to which we act; we conduct ourselves in the society. However not everyone understands the intricacy and details of the decisions so taken that affect our lives. And this miscommunication and lack of understanding creates a sense of confusion among the people which results in the dwindling faith of public from the judicial system. Hence when there is broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings then why not of Court proceedings. On September 26, the Supreme Court opened its doors for live streaming of matters that come under the umbrella of constitutional and national importance. The apex court believes that this step would bring accountability in the judicial system. Their belief rests on the fact that people will get first-hand information of what is happening and what goes on in the Court of law. This would help them understand the nuances and care taken before arriving at any decision. Also this would help against the spreading of fake news.On the suggestion of Attorney General KK Venugopal, the Supreme Court has agreed to the live streaming of important cases in Chief Justice’s court on pilot basis for three months. Depending on the response and success of this trial project, the same can be adopted in other courtrooms also.

A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Mishra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud observed that the step of live streaming was “need of the hour”. This would not only regulate that crowd in the courtroom, help to decongest it but would also mean a leap towards the implementation of the idea of “open court”. CJI remarked in one of the hearings on this matter that remarks made by judges should be recorded.

The decision of Supreme Court is a progressive move which would not only tackle the menace of misreporting but would also boost public confidence and faith in the rule of law. The decision finds its roots imbedded in the constitution which goes deep to Article 21 from which the right to access justice flows, which gives citizens right to attend public hearings. The same right to justice is also protected by Article 145(4) of the constitution. The decision is also bound to save time and money of many as it get rid of the constraints such as distance from courts, travelling costs, etc. the decision not only favors the layman but also pursues to improve the legal education and research by enabling students and academicians alike to perceive decision-making first-hand.

But at the same time there is no correct comparison between the proceedings of Court and that of Parliament. The debates in Parliament are based upon policy which by their own nature is experimental whereas courts cannot take decisions which are experiments. The court functions on logic and the correctness in the application of law. Therefore, a policy debate requires direct participation of public and at times their criticism whereas the courts are known for their process, which has to just and fair.

Moreover transparency requires more than just mere observing. Also at times when a person is aware of being watched by others, he also becomes aware of the fact that his every action warrants a critic response and the watchers form opinion about him. These factors may play vital role resulting in the changes of behavioral patterns or influence their decision. The Supreme Court does not represent the ‘will of people’ and hence must not be exposed to such influence. The eminent judge from United States Supreme Court Justice Scalia is of the view that with every ten people who sit through proceedings gavel to gavel, there are ten thousand who only go through the 30 second breakdown, which destroys the whole concept of live streaming.

Another are when the decision of live streaming seems problematic is logistics. Even though the apex court has said that the proceeding would be broadcasted save for cases of sexual assault, juvenile involvement, domestic abuse or matrimonial issues but it is yet to set down ground rules. The only rule it has been firm upon is that the Court will have copyright over the broadcasted content. But the rules regarding installation of cameras and logistics relating to web broadcast are yet to be decided.

With the words of DY Chandrachud, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”, it is clear that interesting times lie ahead for Indian judiciary but one can only hope that the day would fast come when the citizens would be mature enough to differentiate between a judge’s personal opinion and judicial views of the judge. The one fact which everyone agrees after this decision is that it is necessary for the judiciary to move along with the technology.

By- BhanuPriyaBhati
Student Reporter, INBA

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