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Supreme Court files response in challenge to senior designation process by senior counsel Indira Jaising
Supreme Court files response in challenge to senior designation process by senior counsel Indira Jaising

Indira Jaising moves Supreme Court for live streaming of court proceedings

Meera Emmanuel

Senior Advocate Indira Jaising has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking live streaming of Court proceedings in cases that are of constitutional and national importance having an impact on the public at large or a large number of people.

In her petition, Jaising has pointed out that the Court is hearing, or will be hearing in the near future, a number of such cases which affect the interests of the public at large.

These cases include the ongoing Aadhaar case, women’s right of entry into Sabiramala Temple, decriminalisation of homosexuality, reconsideration of adultery laws, cattle slaughter laws, rights of Parsi women to attend her father’s funeral rites etc.

The broad thrust of the petition is that, as stakeholders, the public has the right to be informed of such cases. The contentions forwarded by Jaising in this regard, in brief, include the following.

  • Right to seek, and receive information in exercise of Freedom of Speech and Expression is guaranteed Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The right to information is a pre-requisite to the fundamental right to be able to freely express their opinions guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
  • It is necessary that those who are impacted by the judgments of the Court have a right to be aware of the manner in which decisions are taken. Enabling citizens – especially those unable to approach the Court due to poor socio-economic background – to understand the reasoning in cases affecting their rights is part of their right to dignity and intrinsic value of their right to be heard under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • If there are countervailing interests of privacy, the Supreme Court can place restrictions on recording of such case proceedings.
  • There is a right to information in real time about the proceedings in Supreme Court of India on all matters of great public importance in exercise of the rights under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India
  • The cardinal principle of law is that justice must not only be done but also seen to be done. The best possible manner to achieve this goal of open justice is to live stream the proceedings. This way, the arguments of all counsel are heard and recorded, and the concerns of the judges as reflected in the interaction between the counsel and the Court, are recorded accurately and without distortions. Further, it will promote transparency and accountability in administration of justice and will inspire confidence of the public in the judiciary. This is also in line with Article 145 (4) of the Constitution.
  • Live recording of court proceedings would help in maintaining the respect that it deserves as a co-equal organ of the State. It has been emphasised that live streaming is currently being employed in both houses of the legislature. There is no rational reason why proceedings of great public importance on public law should also not be telecast live.
  • Live streaming and/or recording of proceedings of matters of national importance will be of immense archival value, as well as a significant contributor to the educational role of the judiciary.
  • Live streaming of cases would avoid misinformation, conscious disinformation, and misunderstanding of the role of the Court. The petition also notes that in the light of new technology such as Twitter, live tweets are already available from the Court rooms to inform people of arguments in real time. However, the petitioner argues that rather than relying on an interpretation by third parties, it is just and necessary that the public can view the proceedings first hand to make up their own minds on the merits of the debate in Court.

The petition also notes that the importance of live streaming of court proceedings has already been recognised and practically implemented in other jurisdictions including those of Canada, Australia, UK, New Zealand, South Africa, the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court, which permit varying degrees of recording court proceedings.

The petitioner has, therefore, prayed that Supreme Court case proceedings of constitutional and national importance be live streamed in a manner that it is easily accessible to the public for viewing.

In furtherance of the same, it has been prayed that directions be issued to appropriate authorities, including the Registrar of Supreme Court as well as concerned Union Ministries, to frame and place for the consideration of the full court, guidelines to determine which cases qualify as being of constitutional and national importance.

Pending the availability of the infrastructure for live streaming, the petitioner has prayed that proceedings of such cases currently before the Supreme Court be recorded and uploaded on its own YouTube channel, till the time the facility of live streaming is arranged.