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Could this be the beginning of the end of opacity? In what may very well be a significant step towards increasing transparency in courts, the Supreme Court has directed that at least two districts in every State and Union Territory shall install CCTV cameras at important locations in court complexes.
The direction was issued by a Bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit in a petition filed by one Pradyuman Bisht seeking a direction for audio-video recording of the proceedings of the trial courts to ensure fair trial.
When the matter was heard on February 2 this year, the Court had noted that it will limit itself to the issue of whether CCTV cameras (without audio recording) can be installed in courts or at some other locations in the court premises with the monitor being in the Chamber of District and Sessions Judge.
The Court had then asked Additional Solicitor General, Maninder Singh (appearing for the Union government) and Senior Advocate R Venkataramani, in the capacity of Amicus Curiae, to visit Gurgaon courts and submit a report regarding the same.
When the matter was taken up yesterday, the Court alluded to the written notes submitted by the two Senior lawyers. It then directed the following:
“We direct that at least in two districts in every State/Union Territory (with the exception of small States/Union Territories where it may be considered to be difficult to do so by the concerned High Courts) CCTV cameras (without audio recording) may be installed inside the courts and at such important locations of the court complexes as may be considered appropriate. Monitor thereof may be in the Chamber of the concerned District and Session Judge. Location of the district courts and any other issues concerning the subject may be decided by the respective High Courts.”
The Court has also made it clear that the footage of the CCTV will not be available under RTI.
“We make it clear that the footage of the CCTV camera will not be available under the R.T.I. and will not be supplied to anyone without permission of the concerned High Court.”
The installation of CCTV has to be completed within three months. All High Courts will have to submit a report of the experiment within one month from the date of installation of CCTVs.
The case will now be listed on August 9 for further consideration.
Read the order below.