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SC approves live-streaming of court proceedings

The SC agreed that live-streaming of court proceedings would serve as an instrument for greater accountability and formed part of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday pushed for greater transparency in the judicial system by setting the stage for live-streaming of court proceedings of cases of constitutional importance. The court directed the centre to frame rules for this and said the project will be carried out in phases.

The three-judge bench agreed that it would serve as an instrument for greater accountability and formed part of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

“It will encourage the principle of open court, effectuate the public’s right to know and reduce dependence on second-hand views," said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

In a hearing in July, the apex court called it the “need of the hour", saying it was open to live-streaming as this would result in increased access to justice.

On Wednesday it asked attorney general K.K. Venugopal to frame “comprehensive and holistic guidelines" and said the exercise could start on an experimental basis in one court.

Venugopal suggested that the centre set up a television channel for live-streaming court proceedings along the lines of Rajya Sabha TV.

He, however, expressed reservations on live-streaming of certain categories of cases, such as personal matters.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud was hearing a batch of petitions, including one by senior advocate Indira Jaising, seeking live-streaming of all cases, specifically ones of constitutional and national importance having an impact on the public.

Jaising contended that live-streaming and videography of the proceedings of the apex court in matters of great public importance would be in keeping with the principle of open access to justice and ensure justice is not only done but is seen to be done.

This would inspire confidence in the functioning of the judiciary as an institution and help maintain the respect that it deserved as a co-equal organ of the state, the petition said.

The petition said that those who were affected by the judgements of the court had a right to be aware of the manner in which decisions were taken.

It referred to courts dealing with issues of environment, triple talaq, air pollution, ban on liquor sales near to national highways, ban on firecrackers and extra judicial killings, all of which affect the public who, however, do not get to see how decisions are made by the court.

Enabling citizens to understand the reasoning in cases affecting their rights formed part of their right to dignity and was an intrinsic value of their right to be heard under Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution, the petition said.

The petition also pointed out that other countries and jurisdictions such as Canada, Australia, the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, the European Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court, permit varying degrees of recordings of court proceedings.

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