Uttar Pradesh Rules governing video conferencing in courts: All you need to know
Video Conferencing, Allahabad High Court

Uttar Pradesh Rules governing video conferencing in courts: All you need to know

Notably, the Rules allow for public viewing of court proceedings, enjoining courts to make video links available, except where proceedings need to be conducted in camera.

The Allahabad High Court has framed the Rules for Video Conferencing for Courts in the State of Uttar Pradesh, 2020, recently notified in the State gazette.

The objective of the Rules is to consolidate, unify and streamline the procedure relating to use of video conferencing for Courts.

Notably, the Rules allow for public viewing of court proceedings, enjoining courts to make video links available, except where proceedings need to be conducted in camera.

While the new rules permit video conferencing at all stages of proceedings - including, in rare instances, statements under Section 164 and 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure - judicial remand at the first instance or police remand cannot be conducted over video conferencing (VC), it is specified.

How the Rules apply:

  • All VC proceedings will be court proceedings, protocol in physical courts will apply.

  • All procedural laws, contempt legislation, along with the Information Technology Act, 2000 will apply.

  • Courts can adopt technological advances as available, subject to maintaining independence, impartiality and credibility of judicial proceedings.

  • Recording of the proceedings is not permitted.

  • A person participating in court proceedings through video conference will have to provide ID to the Court coordinator via email.

Coordinators at the court point, remote point

The Rules require coordinators at the ‘court point’ as well as the ‘remote point’ when a witness or a person accused of an offence is to be examined.

As per the definitions, a court point refers to a place where the Court is physically convened, and the remote point is any place from which a person is required to appear in a video conference.

However, a coordinator shall not be necessary when advocates or parties-in-person appear at the remote point. In such event, technical requirements will have to be handled by the advocate concerned.

The coordinator will have to ensure that all advocates/required persons appear in time, at least 30 minutes before the hearing, that no person records proceedings without authorisation, unauthorised persons do not enter the remote point, the witness is not prompted, receive all necessary documents, ensure the presence of translators, sign language experts, interpreters etc.

Another duty of the coordinator is to ensure that the person being examined is not prompted, tutored, coaxed, induced or coerced in any manner by any person and that the person being examined does not refer to any document, script or device without the permission of the Court.

The coordinator at the court point shall also conduct a trial video conferencing, preferably 30 minutes prior to scheduled video conferencing in order to ensure that all the technical systems are in working condition at both the Court Point and the Remote Point.

At the level of the district judiciary, the concerned district judge, or any of the concerned authorities may perform the role of a coordinator.

Modalities of examination over video conferencing

Any person can seek a video conferencing hearing, with the permission of other parties, unless the matter is extremely urgent. The Court shall pass appropriate orders after considering the application, the Rules state.

The Rules prescribe the specification of date, time, venue of remote point, proof of identity/affidavit on any summons issued to a witness to appear via video conferencing. The other rules governing service will apply, it is stated.

The Rules also allow for the privacy of the examinee to be maintained if the same is sought for, or if the court deems it fit.

It is emphasized that any person who appears over a video conferencing link is to be examined during court hours ordinarily. Pertinently, the Rules provide that there shall be adequate opportunity to the under-trial prisoner to consult in privacy with their counsel before, during and after the video conferencing.

The Rules require the applicant for the video conferencing to serve certified copies of all relevant documents, except those that cannot be served, to the witness and allows the Court to record the demeanour of the person being examined.

During an examination, no other person will be permitted at the remote point. However, a party to the proceeding or a representative may seek permission to appear, but they are required to bear their own expenses.

The Court is ordinarily required to complete examination without interruption or adjournment, and may impose other conditions for the conduct of the hearing, the Rules explain. The Court is also granted the discretion to allow a person to appear in a hearing from his/her present location. Additionally, the rules mandate the storage of the audio-visual recording of the hearing, with the master copy encrypted with a hash value.

Once the hearing is complete, the Court is required to record in writing how the hearing progressed, whether there were technical issues, the video conferencing platform used, the time and duration, whether the examination was recorded, the witness’ satisfaction with the hearing etc.

Conduct of proceedings

All advocates, required persons, and any other person permitted by the Court to remain physically or virtually present are required to abide by the requirements set out in Schedule I. These requirements include:

  • All participants shall wear sober attire consistent with the dignity of the proceedings. The decision of the Presiding Judge or officer as to the dress code will be final.

  • Every participant shall adhere to the courtesies and protocol that are followed in a physical court. Judges will be addressed as “Madam/Sir” or “Your Honour”. Officers will be addressed by their designation such as “Bench Officer/Court Master”. Advocates will be addressed as “Learned Counsel/Senior Counsel”

  • Advocates, required persons, parties in person and other participants shall keep their microphones muted till such time as they are called upon to make submissions.

  • Remote users shall ensure that their devices are free from malware.

  • All participants’ cell phones shall remain switched off or in air-plane mode during the proceedings.

  • All participants should endeavour to look into the camera, remain attentive and not engage in any other activity during the course of the proceedings.

After the completion of video conferencing, if a remote user is of the opinion that he was prejudiced due to poor video and/or audio quality, he shall immediately inform the coordinator at the court point, who shall in turn, communicate this information to the Court without any delay. The Court shall consider the grievance and if it finds substance in the same and may declare the hearing to be incomplete and the parties may be asked to re-connect or make a physical appearance in Court as may be considered appropriate.

Costs

The costs of the hearing will be borne by the party making the request for a video conferencing hearing in civil cases, while in criminal cases the Court is empowered to decide.

In any case, the Court is allowed to make appropriate orders as to costs, even to the extent of waiving them.

Rules governing the conduct of court proceedings via video conferencing were also framed by the Madras High Court last year, which were published in the State Gazette last July.

[Read the Rules framed by the Allahabad High Court]

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UP Video Conferencing Rules, 2021.pdf
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