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Law Student moves Gujarat High Court for public access to virtual court hearings

“The concept of justice at the doorstep would be meaningful only if the public gets access to the proceedings to the proceedings as it would unfold before the Courts", the petition says.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

A student of the Institute of Law, Nirma University has moved a petition in the Gujarat High Court for making the live-stream of Court proceedings accessible to the public [Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. High Court of Gujarat].

In his petition, Pruthvirajsinh Zala states

“... the right of access to justice flows from Article 21 of the Constitution. The concept of justice at the doorstep, would be meaningful only if the public gets access to the proceedings as it would unfold before the Courts and in particular, opportunity to witness live proceedings in respect of matters having an impact on the public at large or on section of people.”

On the other hand, Zala points out that “the present set-up of virtual hearings is inaccessible to public at large including litigants, media personnel and law students etc.”

Noting that the US and UK Supreme Courts, as well as various High Courts in India, have taken appropriate measures to live stream their proceedings for the public in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the petitioner seeks the establishment of a similar system in the Gujarat High Court.

Zala grounds his submissions in Articles 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Constitution, asserting that by virtue of these provisions, the public have a right to be informed and for access to justice.

Referring to the Supreme Court rulings and provisions of procedural law, he contends that it is an accepted proposition that court hearings should be in open court. In this regard, the ruling in Shridhar Mirajkar vs. State of Maharashtra and Ors. (1966)] is also cited.

Courts must take aid of tech to enhance open court move beyond physical accessibility to virtual accessibility”, Zala adds while referring to similar observations made by the Supreme Court in Swapnil Tripathi v. Supreme Court of India.

"Live-streaming should become a norm even after normal Court proceedings resume, to 'make it more accessible.'”
PIL petitioner

In this backdrop, the petitioner has prayed that a system to allow open access to virtual hearings be set up in the Gujarat High Court as well.

The Court has been urged to issue allied directions to the Court's Registry and to issue rules and guidelines for the smooth functioning of the system.

The matter has been listed to be taken up next on July 10.

Read the Order:

Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. High Court of Gujarat - June 29 Order.pdf
Preview

Read the Petition:

Pruthvirajsinh Zala v. High Court of Gujarat - PIL.pdf
Preview
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