Live Streaming of Court Proceedings: A Case for Transparency
On 9 July, while hearing the petition of Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court (SC) – comprising Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, and Justices DY Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar – agreed in principal for the live streaming of court proceedings involving cases of national importance.
This also found the support of the Centre through Attorney General KK Venugopal.
Judicial Transparency & Accountability
This will go a long way in ensuring transparency in the judiciary and thus benefit the public at large. It is also in compliance with one of the cardinal principles of administration of justice, “Justice should not be done but also seem to be done.”
India’s constitutional philosophy aims is to make the system of justice transparent and accessible to all its citizens. Judicial accountability is one such facet. In this regard, the agreement by the SC in a recent petition seeking the live streaming of hearings of national importance, is a welcome move. By allowing live streaming, the courts will have more public outreach which will bolster public confidence in the judiciary and will also make the judiciary more accountable.
Providing fair trials in the public eye is essential to democracy, and it is therefore a matter of concern if members of the public rarely come into our courts to observe what goes on in them. Stating that our courts, as a general principle, are open to all is one thing. But it must be a reality, and live streaming is a great move in this regard.
Jonathan Caplan, media law specialist, in his 1989 report Televising The Courts posits that the importance to a society of open justice is considerable, and the fact that the technology exists which could assist greater public knowledge and confidence in the process, should not be ignored.
This step would put our SC amid a select group of courts around the world like Canada and Australia as well as international courts like the International Court of Justice which live stream their proceedings for the sake of transparency. This will enhance the image of our judiciary at a global level. Also, this would bring the SC at par with the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha which have been live streaming their proceedings since 2004.
Right to Information
The live streaming proposal also takes into consideration important aspects of the right to privacy. To ensure that this fundamental right is not breached, it proposes that family and criminal matters will not be streamed. Only cases of national importance like decriminalisation of Section 377 or the Ram Janmabhoomi case will be streamed.
In November last year, addressing the concern of privacy in courts in a hearing relating to installation of CCTV cameras in courts, Justice AK Goel, who retired recently from the SC had remarked, “What privacy? This is not a case of privacy. We don’t need privacy here. Judges don’t need privacy in court proceedings. Nothing private is happening here. We all are sitting in front of you.”
While sticking to the inherent principle of the right to information, it would be plausible to argue that every person should have the right to know about the proceedings which may have a role in their lives. Thus, this is a welcome move by the top court of the country which must be put in place for better administration of justice.
(Snehil Kunwar Singh and Bhaskar Kumar are enrolled in the B.A.LL.B (Hons.) programme at National Law School of India University, Bengaluru. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)