Live Streaming of Supreme Court proceedings: Guidelines proposed by AG KK Venugopal

Live Streaming of Supreme Court proceedings: Guidelines proposed by AG KK Venugopal

Bar & Bench

Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s directions, Attorney General for India KK Venugopal has submitted written guidelines for facilitating live streaming of proceedings in the Apex Court.

As suggested earlier, Venugopal has urged that live streaming be introduced as a pilot project in Court No. 1, and will initially be limited to hearings of Constitution Bench matters. The document submitted by the AG states,

“The success of this project will determine whether or not live streaming should be introduced in all courts in the Supreme Court and in Courts pan India.”

Further, the opening of a media room for litigants, journalists, interns, visitors and lawyers to view the proceedings has also been mooted. This move, it has been suggested, will also ensure that courts are less congested. Facilities will also be made available for differently abled persons.

Apart from live streaming, the AG has also suggested transcribing facilities and an archive of the audio-visual recordings of hearings to be made accessible to the public. This, it has been stated, “will also allow students of law to supplement their academic knowledge and gain practical insights into cases of national importance”.

Moreover, the need for guidelines to restrict and limit recording of Supreme Court proceedings has also been stressed on. In this light, it has been recommended that the Court be given the power to limit, temporarily suspend or disallow filming or broadcasting, if in its opinion, such measures are likely to interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair trial. It has also been suggested that the Court lay down criteria to determine what cases constitute proceedings of Constitutional and national importance.

Venugopal has recommended that live streaming be impermissible for the following cases:

  • Matrimonial matters
  • Matters involving interests of juveniles or the protection and safety of the private life of the young offenders
  • Matters of National security
  • To ensure that victims, witnesses or defendants can depose truthfully and without any fear. Special protection must be given to vulnerable or intimidated witnesses. It may provide for face distortion of the witness if she/he consents to the broadcast anonymously
  • To protect confidential or sensitive information, including all matters relating to sexual assault and rape
  • Matters where publicity would be antithetical to the administration of justice.
  • Cases which may provoke sentiments and arouse passion and provoke enmity among communities

Other restrictions include prevention of footage from being used for commercial purposes, promotion, light entertainment, satirical programs or advertising. A bar on reproducing, transmitting, uploading, posting, modifying, publishing or re-publishing the recordings has also been called for.

Unauthorised usage ought to be punishable as an offence under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 and the Information Technology Act, 2000, the AG has suggested. Contempt laws would also apply in such cases.

Reference has also been made to the Court of Appeal in England, which allowed live streaming of its proceedings on YouTube back in 2013.

“The telecast is deferred by 70 seconds with the Judge having the power to mute something said in the proceedings if he feels they are inappropriate for public consumption.

Like the Court of Appeal in England, the Supreme Court should also lay guidelines for having only two camera angles, one facing the judge and the other- the lawyer. The camera should not focus on the papers of the lawyer.”

The suggestions stem from a petition filed by Senior Advocate Indira Jaising, who sought live streaming of Court proceedings in cases that are of constitutional and national importance having an impact on the public at large.

Jaising had also suggested that adequate safeguards be put in place. These included safety measures to prevent commercialization of this process. Jaising had underscored the need for the feed to live webcast of proceedings to be available to the public free of any charge and no money-making business took place to make this facility available.

AG Venugopal, who was called upon to assist the Court in the matter, had earlier suggested that live streaming of certain important cases in the Supreme Court be introduced on an experimental basis. The Court had welcomed his suggestion, calling it the “need of the hour”.

The Court had then asked Venugopal to make a comprehensive set of guidelines and suggestions in this regard and to submit them before the Court in writing.

Read the guidelines:

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