Supreme Court nod to live-streaming of court proceedings

Ushering in more transparency in the judiciary’s work, the Supreme Court gave its nod to live-streaming of court proceedings, saying this will bring more accountability and enhance the rule of law.

As per the court’s order, the project 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.

What necessitated this?

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. 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.

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”. 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 significance of the move:

This is a giant step by the Supreme Court to move towards a regime of transparency.

Live streaming will deal head-on with the problem of distance. Given that the court is located in New Delhi, many people cannot afford to be present physically in Supreme Court to follow the arguments, even if the case directly affects them in some way. In fact, even litigants are often unable to travel to court because of the cost and distance involved, leaving it entirely to their lawyers to run the case.

A live telecast of proceedings also has the potential to reduce unwarranted delays in the cases caused by the occasionally cavalier attitude of lawyers. With the client’s eye firmly on them, lawyers are likely to expedite cases. Further, this will provide an opportunity for young lawyers to showcase their talents to the world and has the potential to break the stranglehold of a select few over the legal profession.

Live streaming could act as a welcome check on the judiciary. With the public watching, there is every chance that there will be a reduction in the sometimes unnecessary oral comments that cause much controversy but have no judicial bearing.

Supreme Court Rules, 2013, will have to suitably amended to provide for the regulatory framework to incorporate the changes.

Besides, live telecast comes with some drawbacks. As seen in the Parliament, there is a tendency to grandstand among lawmakers, who want to show their electorate that they are indeed working hard. The court has to make sure proceedings are unaffected by the introduction of a new technology.

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