By Utkarsh Pandey, Advocate
The provision of open-court hearing is provided in every democratic justice system in the world. It ensures that transparency is maintained in the court by letting the people know how effective the justice system is working. In India also Section 153 B of the Civil Procedure Code says that ‘the place in which any Civil Court is held for the purpose of trying any suit shall be deemed to be an open court, to which the public generally may have access so far as the same can conveniently contain them. Provided that the presiding Judge may, if he thinks fit, order at any stage of enquiry into trial of any particular case, that the public generally, or any particular person, shall not have any access to, or be or remain in, the room or building used by the Court.’
Likewise, Section 327 of Criminal ProcedureCode stipulates that ‘the place in which any criminal Court is held for the purpose of inquiring into or trying an offence shall be deemed to be an open court to which the public generally may have access, so far as the same can conveniently contain them. Sub-section (2 says that ‘notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1) the enquiry into and trial of rape or an offence under section376, section 376 A, section 376 B, section 376 C, section 376 D or section 376E of the Indian Penal Code shall be conducted in camera’.
Open courts are necessary for the interest of justice so that the general public can see how the courts are functioning. In fact, it is of utmost necessity for the litigant to know the status of the case at every stage, be that the inception of the case or the end, the litigant has the right to know every detail which his/her attorney has done. Therefore, the open court was a necessary step taken by the Legislature to instil a belief in a common man that his case is being proceeded and defended in the best possible manner. Corona pandemic has indeed hurdled the open court proceedings.
Thus, it has made it more necessary that live streaming and online platforms should be used on a larger scale. It will be a big relief in these challenging times. Live streaming is not a new concept it has seen growth and decline in many countries, some of the popular countries which had included it in its system include the United States and the United Kingdom, Australia and Ukraine. Every system has its drawback. Live telecasting also has its drawbacks. In every system where public perception is involved there tend to be different views and opinions like; if we can recall the famous ‘K.M Nanavati vs State ofMaharastra’ case. The system of Jury trial was abolished because the Supreme Court considered it proper that the majority of jury members were influenced, it is not important that the people can be influenced positively or negatively, if justice is affected in any other way that is a dangerous sign for a democracy.
Therefore, the Supreme has to be extra cautious while implementing live streaming as part of its system. As we know media is the 4th pillar of democracy. The Supreme Court can put restrictions on it. Now a new breed of vigilante journalism has come up with the advent of the 21st century mainly due to the internet or Google making social media more powerful, which can influence people than any other form of media. Live streaming of judicial proceedings is indeed the future, it will make life easier and more convenient for many advocates and judges as well. If we can put aside the travelling expenses involved, live-streaming has saved more travel and waiting time. Indeed, there are flaws in it, but it is not something that can not be corrected. Gujrat High Court has become the first High Court in the country to telecast the whole judicial proceeding in the live feed. It is a welcome step as litigants also have access to assess whether their advocates are competent enough to handle their case or not.
Live streaming can also be a significant step for judicial education as well, if we can just consider the fact that live telecasting has enabled some time ago, then we would have had the privilege to watch and learn how the notable advocates and judges conduct their cases and how the law is defined and moulded by their words from any part of the world. Live streaming is an important evolution in the history of the judicial system it has to be used in the best possible way so that every person can benefit from it.