Can court sessions be live-streamed?

Context:
  • The Supreme Court said that it is ready to go live on camera while the government mooted a separate TV channel for live-streaming court proceedings.
 
Background:
  • Some judges in the constitutional court in India had historically been reluctant about the idea of recording court proceedings because it would “capture every sentence” in the banter between judges and lawyers which were merely a way to elicit responses and not a sign of how the judge would finally decide the case.
  • The Supreme Court, in a bid to usher in transparency, had earlier allowed the installation of CCTV video recording with audio in trial courts and tribunals.
 
Challenges in Streaming live:
  • Agreements entered with broadcasters should be on a non-commercial basis.
  • No one should profit from the arrangement. There should be no unauthorized reproduction.
  • Due concern should be taken care for cases involving national security concerns, matrimonial disputes and rape cases.
  • A public viewing of marital dispute and rape case proceedings would seriously affect justice and amount to a violation of the fundamental right to privacy. So an alternative mechanism should be present.
 
Significance
  • Livestream is an extension of the ‘open court’ system, where the public can walk in and watch court proceedings.
  • With court proceedings beamed live on air, litigants, law students and the public can watch them as they happen.
  • Would keep a check on lawyers’ conduct inside the courtrooms.
  • With the entire country watching them, there would be fewer interruptions, raised voices and adjournments from the lawyers.
 
Practice around the world:
  • Some courts allow publication after a gap of 30 minutes, some ban recording of proceedings only in trial courts as that would compromise witnesses, some give edited versions of the proceedings, some record the proceedings but do not air it in public, some give out transcripts of proceedings.
 
Other Organs of the government
  • To promote transparency, live-streaming has been allowed for both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha proceedings since 2004.
  • Similarly, the recording of videos in the highest courts in Canada and Australia, the International Court of Justice, shows that this exercise is neither novel nor so difficult
 
Citizen’s right to know
  • Citizens have the right to information and matters of constitutional and national importance can be live-streamed.
  • If live streaming of top court’s proceedings is not possible, then alternately the video recording should be allowed.
 
Digitization of courts
  • While the courts are now opting for digitization, with online records of all cases, a provision for filing FIRs online, an automated system of case rotation, etc.
  • In the light of these technological advancements, Live streaming of court cases can be needed for the cases though not for all.
  • Those matters that are of great public importance should be available for all to see.
  • Therefore, matters which have a privacy dimension, such as family matters or criminal matters, or matters with legal procedural intricacies, such as most trial court matters, can be out of its scope.
  • But matters which have a bearing on important public interest issues such as the constitutionality of the Aadhaar scheme, or the legality of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code,all of which are pending before the Supreme Court, should be available for all to watch
 
 
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