Live Streaming of Court Proceedings: A Laudable Step

By Parmanand Pandey

My colleague Shripal Singh and I have been regularly campaigning for the live streaming of the court proceedings. I have written copiously on it in my blog’ Life and Law’ as well as on my website’ Judicial Panorama’. Fortunately, a good beginning of live streaming of three Constitution Benches has been made from today i.e., 27th of September 2022. The decision to video-record the court proceedings was taken in November 2017 by the bench headed by the then CJI Dipak Misra. It was then directed by it that the proceedings of two courts in every district of the country would be video recorded. In the first week of 2018, again the bench consisting of the then CJI, Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud gave a verdict that the live telecasting of the court proceedings would begin from the court of the Chief Justice of India itself.

There are many democratic countries where a video recording of the courts is allowed. In some countries like, the United States of America live telecast of some selected cases is also permitted. Thus, the Supreme Court of India is the first in the world to have allowed for the live streaming of the proceedings.

Maintaining Time Schedule and containing Corruption

The biggest advantage of it will be to help maintain the time schedule of courts. As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, all judges sit in the courtrooms exactly at 10:30 am, without being late even for one minute. However, in most of the High Courts, the condition is not so good. The judges often come late to court. Sometimes they sit late from half an hour to one hour and they retire to their chambers as per their sweet wills. The condition of the lower courts across the country is a total mess. The Judges come and go as and when they desire. It is an open secret that the corruption in the lower judiciary is stinking to high heaven. A reader/peshkar takes money for the filing of the documents, giving of the dates or providing information about the next date of hearings or changing the dates. These employees take bribes even from Advocates and their clients in the full glare of the judges. These peshkars/ ahlmads, in turn, supply milk, bread, butter, vegetables and groceries to the houses of presiding deities. The situation is not so bad in Delhi and many other cosmopolitan towns but in district courts it is rampant. Some judges have become so shameless that they do not feel anything bad about it. Many times, even if the bail has been granted, the papers will not be prepared till the palms of the concerned Ahlmads are not greased. Peons and employees openly demand money as if it is their right.

The live telecasts of the Court proceeding will certainly help curb corruption to a large extent. This will make lethargic and incompetent judges more alert and at the same time save the clients from extortion by non-judicial employees. Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant. This will largely cure the infection of corruption and help the ordinary people in getting justice relatively fast because the conduct of the judges, advocates, court employees and others will always be in the public scanner. This will also ensure the judges and the advocates remain prepared during the hearings of the cases because their conduct will be in the surveillance of thousands of people.

No doubt, what could not have been achieved by the strictness of the administration will be achieved by modern technology. Technology has come as a boon for the eradication of corruption, and we must salute and welcome it with open arms to make the country a better place to live in. This move will also instil a new faith in the judiciary. Almost everybody knows that there are many advocates, who only seek adjournments to delay the cases. Clients also indulge in highly unethical practices to get justice delayed. The live streaming will also go a long way in controlling the witnesses to behave properly because it has been found that they often turn hostile for some considerations.

Theatrics Must be Curbed

However, the presiding Judges will have to ensure that the courtrooms are not converted into places of theatrics. There is no dearth of such advocates who may adopt the recourse of dramatics to get cheap popularity. We see that even the live telecasting of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha has not been able to inject a sense of responsibility among the members of parliament. Therefore, the judges will have to take extra care to ensure that some advocates do not hijack the court discipline for cheap publicity. The other problem will be the spread of unverified news through social media because it is absolutely unregulated in our country, so they often think that any oral observation or comment made by the judge or the advocate is of great importance. In order to sensationalist
the comments, social media often gives go-by to contents and wings to oral observations.

Live streaming is going to be a game-changing reform in the judicial system of the country. As a matter of fact. Section 153 B of the Civil Procedure Code and Section 327 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides for the open court hearing in the CPC and Cr P C. The only exception has been the hearings of the cases related to sexual crimes against women because the intent was not to disclose the identity of women. When this provision was inserted, there was no scientific development to provide more publicity. Only the print- the journalist was allowed to report for the general consumption of the public.

The judgments of the Supreme Court and High Courts were also divided into two categories namely, reportable and non-reportable. It was left to the discretion of judges to decide whether it was reportable or not. The basic criteria for the same are considered that if a judgment is of ‘in rem’ category then it should be published but if it is ‘in personem’, then not to be published. Anyway, with the passage of time, the demand for the telecasting of news proceedings gained ground. A few High Courts namely Patna, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujrat and Karnataka took have started partially telecasting their important judgment for the benefit of the general public.

Live Streaming: Useful for Law Students and Teachers

Live streaming will be immensely beneficial for law students and teachers who can watch the proceedings in their classrooms. It should be made mandatory for all law colleges and all judicial academies as part of their practical training. Many law colleges have been conducting tours to the Supreme Court and High Court so that their students could see the proceedings but now they do not have to bother about visiting different courts which will be available on the TV sets. Coming to the courts was a marathon and complex exercise for them and their teachers, right from taking permission from the Registrars for a limited number of students to getting their entry passes to the courtrooms.