Gujarat High Court
Gujarat High Court
Litigation News

Open virtual proceedings part of the right to know: Gujarat HC sets up Committee to decide on public access to virtual court hearings

Disposing of a plea moved by law student Pruthvirajsinh Zala, the Gujarat High Court has informed of the constitution of a Committee to take a call on the question of opening public access to court hearings.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

A Division Bench of the Gujarat High Court recently disposed of a petition filed by third-year Nirma University law student Pruthvirajsinh Zala seeking open public access to virtual hearings (Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. High Court of Gujarat).

The Bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice JB Pardiwala, while disposing of the petition, acknowledged Zala's arguments in the matter.

Zala appearing as a party-in-person had argued for open public access to virtual hearings as well as for virtual streaming of court proceedings even after normalcy returned.

The Bench, accepting the points he urged, observed:

"... to observe the requirement of an open Court proceedings, the members of the public should be allowed to view the Court hearings conducted through the video conferencing, except the proceedings ordered for the reasons recorded in writing to be conducted in-camera."
Gujarat High Court

Further, the Court iterated that the right to know and receive information as one of the facets of a citizen's rights under Article 19 (1) (a). This is the reason for the public being allowed to witness the Court proceedings of matters that impact the public or sections of it, the Court said.

"The right to know and receive information is one of the facets of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and for which reason, the public is entitled to witness the Court proceedings involving the issue having an impact on the public at large or a section of the public, as the case may be."

However, the Court brought to the petitioner's notice the constitution of a two-Judge Committee that has been tasked with working out the modalities to allow public access to virtual court hearings. The Committee was constituted after a Standing Committee meeting held on June 25, the Judgment states.

"The Committee, as referred to above, is working on the modalities and would be placing its report in the near future. Once the report is received, the further action to allow access to the public at large including the media persons of print digital and electronic media shall be finalized."

Zala was also commended for his assistance to the Court, with the judge observing,

"He has taken up this cause in public interest and has assisted this Court very ably furnishing important materials. We appreciate the efforts put in by the writ applicant appearing in person in public interest."
Gujarat High Court

In these terms, the Judgment was disposed of.

Read the Judgment here:

Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. State of Gujarat - Judgment dated July 20, 2020.pdf
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