Polity & Governance Prelims cum Mains

SC says it is ready to go live, Centre moots a TV channel

 

The News

  • The Supreme Court said that it is ready to go live on camera while the government mooted a separate TV channel for live-streaming court proceedings.

 

News Summary

Background:

  • The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition filed by a senior lawyer seeking live streaming of judicial proceedings in the top court on matters of constitutional and national importance.
  • The Petition is filed as Pro Bono for enforcement of public interest, to advance the rule of law and bring accessibility and transparency in the administration of justice.
  • The SC also asked central government to file its view and assistance in this matter.
  • Earlier, in a bid to bring in transparency, the top court had in 2017, allowed the installation of CCTV video recording with audio in trial courts and tribunals of each state.

 

Petitioner’s argument:

  • The Petitioner submitted that the citizens have the right to information in real time about the proceedings in the Supreme Court of India on all matters of great public importance in exercise of their rights under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
  • Hence cases of constitutional and national importance, having an impact on the public at large, can be live-streamed.
  • If live streaming of top court’s proceedings is not possible, then alternately the video recording should be allowed.

 

Supreme Court’s observation:

  • A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India said a livestream is only an extension of the ‘open court’ system, where the public can walk in and watch court proceedings.
  • With court proceedings beamed live on air, litigants, law students and the public can watch them as they happen.
  • People from far-flung States such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala do not have to travel all the way to the national capital for a day’s hearing.
  • The Bench asked centre to address it on the issue of framing guidelines for live-streaming proceedings.

 

Government’s view:

  • Central government agreed with livestream of court proceeding and proposed a dedicated channel like the Rajya Sabha TV and the Lok Sabha TV for the Supreme Court.
  • It compared the scene inside the courtroom to the sober atmosphere in the British courts, where proceedings are live-streamed.
  • Government said that it would keep a check on lawyers’ conduct inside the courtrooms. With the entire country watching them, there would be fewer interruptions, raised voices and adjournments from the lawyers.
  • However cautioned that a public viewing of marital dispute and rape case proceedings would seriously affect justice and amount to a violation of the fundamental right to privacy.

 

Analysis:

  • Benefits:
    • Such an exercise would inspire confidence in the functioning of the judiciary as an institution and help in maintaining the respect that it deserves as a co-equal organ of the state.
    • It will be in keeping with the principle of open access to justice and will ensure justice is not only done but it is seen to be done.
    • Live streaming will empower and provide access to citizens who cannot personally come to the court due to socio-economic constraints.
  • Restrictions:
    • However there should be restrictions 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”.
    • Also every word uttered by the bar or the bench cannot be made available in public domain for record purpose so edited version can be uploaded in public domain.
    • The agreements with broadcasters for live-streaming should be on a non-commercial basis. No one should profit from the arrangement. And there should be no unauthorised reproduction.
  • Examples: In Western countries this system is already in place and live streaming of court proceedings, including that of International Court of Justice, are available on the Youtube.

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