Live streaming of the proceedings of some of the High Courts and three Constitution Benches in the Supreme Court has already given an inkling of how the courts (mal) function in India. If one can see the erudition, courtesy and learning of some of the judges and the advocates then at the same time the tantrums and arrogance of some of the judges and bluffs and bragging of some advocates can also be witnessed. Some of the judges look grotesque with their unbecoming attitude and they give off the appearance of a headmaster in the courtrooms. Instead of asking searching and incisive questions from the advocates and clients, their arrogance and ill manners come into display.
When we were campaigning for the live telecasting of the court proceedings, many used to oppose it tooth and nail. Their only logic was that the judges and advocates should not be exposed to the mockery or merriment of the general public. They came forward with all sorts of asinine logic against live streaming of court proceedings but thankfully the court finally decided to fully telecast the Constitutional Court proceedings. Although many High Courts have started partial live telecasting much before its introduction in the Supreme Court, special mention must be made of the Orissa High Court, where Chief Justice Muralidhar took the bold decision to telecast the proceedings of all courts. In fact, except for the in-camera proceedings, the entire work should be open to telecasting. It is gratifying that the present Government is also supportive of this move.
It has been a normal refrain that ‘Bar is the judge of the Bench’. Anybody aware of the court proceedings knows it well that advocates have been expressing their opinions about judges and advocates on the basis of hearsay. Some of them may be true but most of them are like canards. Now the live telecast will facilitate the people to form their own opinions about the judges and advocates. Those who have been watching the proceedings of different High Court will vouchsafe that some of the judges are always discourteous and they have developed the habit of pulling the legs of the advocates instead of trying to know the facts and the legal position to arrive at justice.
We have Anglo -Saxon legal system of justice delivery system. Our courts have got fossilised. Why should our advocates and judges have to wear high-flowing gowns and bands in the High Courts and the Supreme Court? Nobody will give any satisfactory answer to it, just continuing as lakeer ke faquir. We have many judges who wax eloquent for the Swaraj model of justice, but they have never taken any initiative to do away with this abhorring dress code. Why did they not do anything for removing such a dress code as could not be suitable for the climes of the country? Now the people will be the judge of the judicial system and what our political leadership and the Executive could not do, hopefully, the pressure and the outcry from the public will force the judiciary to change it uniform so as to conform to the county’s climate. After all, our judges are also parts of society, and they cannot be allowed to be living in a room of hallowed virtue and free from criticism even if their conducts are not beyond reproach.
Our judicial system is such that in the High Courts and the Supreme Court, the Advocates are expected to be always docile and servile. Even if they have not to say anything, they are expected to grin and say, ‘My Lord, My Lord (s)’. Not saying so is considered to be a bad court craft. It is said that once the late socialist leader Dr Ram Manohar Lohia personally argued a case in the Supreme Court and he refused to address the judge as ‘My Lord.’ He invariably addressed a ‘Mr Judge.’ But no advocate howsoever senior he/she maybe now has the courage to say ‘Mr or Madam Judge’ in the courtroom. Sometimes the judges take it as an insult and start rebuking even the aged and senior lawyers. Shockingly, these lawyers become so spineless that they show no unhappiness.
There can be hardly any doubt that Presiding officers or judges should be given full respect but not addressing them as my Lord(s) is no disrespect. Saying ‘yes sir, yes sir’ to any officer is not an indicator of respect but a sign of servility. This practice must go lock stock and barrel, especially from the courts. And there is no other way to ensure it than to live to stream the court’s proceedings. It will also keep corruption in check and all functionaries of the courts including the judges to be cautious of their responsibilities.