New Delhi: The Supreme Court’s e-committee, which looks at all technological matters related to courts, has set up a panel of four judges to frame rules for live-streaming of hearings in high courts and trial courts, in a bid to promote transparency in court operations.
This is the first time that deliberations are being held on the possibility of live-streaming court proceedings. In 2018, a three-judge bench led by then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had first recommended broadcasting Supreme Court hearings live in the Swapnil Tripathi case.
Now, two years later, the panel is expected to submit its report on the same to the e-committee, headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, within a week.
“The judges will draw inspiration from the practise prevalent in other countries, if there is any, and also study the 2018 verdict in the Swapnil Tripathi case as well as the suggestions that were furnished by the Attorney General in that matter,” a senior court officer, familiar with the development, told ThePrint.
“Although his (AG’s) note was specifically meant for Supreme Court cases, the panel will include points from the comprehensive guidelines he had recommended,” he added.
For live broadcast of cases in the Supreme Court, the officer said, CJI S.A. Bobde is authorised to take a decision as the administrative head.
The CJI had expressed reservations about live-streaming of cases on 26 October and said that there was potential of misuse of hearings streamed live.
“In principle, I agree that there should be live streaming but in practice, you must hear me. As CJI, I have to deal with so many complaints over the virtual court proceedings,” he said.
Parliamentary panel also supports live-streaming of cases
The panel has been constituted shortly after a parliamentary panel report also supported live-streaming hearings of national importance and constitutional matters in September.
The report noted that the telecast of cases will help reinforce faith in the judicial system and further the principle of open justice and open court.
If proceedings are streamed live, then litigants may also not come to court for the hearing, which will help reduce the crowd inside, the report added.
The appointed panel will formulate comprehensive rules, which will guide high courts and trial courts to start live-telecast of court hearings, said the senior officer quoted above.
It will also take into account concerns raised with regard to security issues or misuse of live proceedings.
However, it will not be mandatory for courts to stream their hearings.
“This will be offered to those who voluntarily take the lead to start broadcast of court hearings. It will be an optional exercise and not be forced upon any court,” the senior officer said.
The e-committee has also invited tenders from a national player to install a comprehensive video conference system in all high courts and district courts that will also extend technical support in cases of live-streaming.
Calcutta HC and Gujarat HC have live-streamed cases
The Calcutta High Court was the first to approve a plea for live-streaming proceedings of a case filed by a Parsi woman in February this year.
The woman had approached the court seeking the court’s approval for her granddaughter’s entry into the fire temple, the Zoroastrian community’s place of worship. The Parsi community does not allow these rights to the children of people who marry outside the community.
The petitioner had sought live-streaming of the case on the grounds that “a matter of national importance impacting the public at large, and Parsi Zoroastrians in particular, is being heard and decided”.
A division bench of Justices Sanjib Banerjee and Kausik Chanda had allowed the proceedings to be streamed live on YouTube.
Last week, the Gujarat High Court also streamed proceedings of cases being heard by Chief Justice Vikram Nath on YouTube live.
According to an administrative order issued by the Chief Justice, the telecast was on purely experimental basis. The telecast was for over five hours and about half-a-dozen cases were heard. Approximately, 68,324 viewers watched the proceedings.
Courts across the country have been holding online hearings since 24 March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.