Supreme Court E-committee releases draft Model Rules for live-streaming, recording of court proceedings

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Context:

  • Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) e-Committee has released the Draft Model Rules for Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings.
  • The e-Committee is functioning with the Department of Justice and has invited suggestions and inputs from all stakeholders by 30th June 2021.

Background

  • The SC, within the judgment of Swapnil Tripathi and Indira Jaisingh case, 2018, held that telecast of important cases to an audience outside the courtroom would inaugurate greater transparency and aid accountability.
  • The e-Committee held that the proper of access to justice, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution encompasses the proper to access live court proceedings.
  • A sub-committee consisting of judges of the Bombay, Delhi, Madras and Karnataka High Courts was constituted to border the model draft Rules. It held extensive deliberations and it took under consideration the SC’s substitute 2018.

About the Draft Rules

Live streaming of Court Proceedings: When will this happen? All you should  know
  • These are a part of the National Policy and Action Plan for implementation of data and Communication Technology (ICT) within the judiciary.
  • These are framed within the exercise of powers under Article 225 or relevant statute where applicable, and Article 227 of the Constitution of India.
  • Article 225 empowers the supreme court to form rules regarding proceedings and other matters connected to the supreme court .
  • Article 227 determines that each supreme court shall have superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories in reference to which it exercises jurisdiction, except a court formed under a law associated with armed forces.
  • They would cover live-streaming and recording of proceedings in High Courts, lower courts and tribunals.

Methodology

  • Cameras would be positioned at five angles covering the Bench, lawyers on each side , accused and witnesses.
  • A remote control device would be provided to the presiding judge on the Bench to pause or stop the livestream at any time.
  • Personal information like date of birth of parties, home address, card number, bank account information, and also the personal information of related parties, like close relatives, witnesses and other participants, are going to be deleted or muted during live-streaming.
  • In order to decongest the court rooms, dedicated room(s) for viewing the Live- stream could also be made available within the Court Premises.
  • Access shall incline to law researchers, staff, litigants, academicians, and media personnel authorised to enter the Court.

Parties to the cases are given the choice of raising objections to live-streaming by specifying their reasons.  

  • The final decision on whether or to not allow the live-streaming of the proceedings or any portion thereof are going to be of the Bench.
  • However, the decision of the Bench are going to be guided by the principle of an open and transparent judicial process.
  • In cases where the proceedings aren't live-streamed, the recording shall be maintained for usage by the courts and may tend to the parties at appropriate stages after required redaction and filtration.
  • The content of the recordings would be vetted and posted, usually within three days of the conclusion of the proceedings.
  • The content would be posted on the court website or made available on digital platforms authorised by the court.
  • No person/entity (including print and electronic media, and social media platforms) apart from an authorised person/entity shall record, share and/or disseminate live-streamed proceedings or archival data.
  • Underlining any unauthorised usage of the live stream are going to be punishable as an offence under the Indian Copyright Act, Information Technology Act and other provisions of law, including the law of contempt.
  • The committee is functioning towards ensuring proper infrastructure in order that high courts across the country have an efficient platform to stream the proceedings.
  • Going forward, infrastructural requirements like cloud storage and adequate bandwidth will need to be met.  

Exemptions

  • Matrimonial matters, cases under the Protection of children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) and under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act would even be exempted from livestream.
  • The Bench can exempt, for reasons recorded in writing, any case it considers antithetical to the administration of justice.
  • A 10-minute delay is proposed in transmission and exclusion of communally sensitive cases and matters that involve sexual offences and gender violence against women.
  • Besides, the High Courts may decide in their wisdom another category of cases or specific cases where streaming won't be allowed.

Significance

  • The rules aim at bringing greater transparency, inclusivity and access to justice.
  • Live-streaming will enable access to measure court proceedings, including on matters of public interest to citizens, journalists, civil society, academicians and law students on a real-time basis, something otherwise constrained by geographical, logistical or infrastructural issues.
  • The rules provide for a legal framework and a balanced regulatory structure for live-streaming and recording of court proceedings and shall balance between access to information and concerns of privacy and confidentiality.

Benefits of Live Proceedings

  • Open To All: The Indian Judicial system is made on the concept of open court and therefore the SC is an institution of constitutional governance therefore the public has the proper to know about court proceedings which can be hospitable all now.
  • Safeguarding Public Interest: The historical cases like on the entry of girls in Sabarimala temple, on constitutionality of the Aadhaar scheme or on the legality of Section 377 of the Indian legal code etc. are public interest issues, Such issues in future are going to be available for all to observe now.
  • Avoiding Fake News: it'll do away with the menace of pretend news and therefore the got to avoid multiple versions or wrong projections of facts.
  • Safe Work Conditions: In post-Covid-19 situations, people are going to be ready to watch the proceeding, maintaining a secure distance therefore the health of all are going to be safeguarded.
  • The work from home will ensure safe working conditions for everybody involved.
  • Multi-pronged Benefits: Access to information for journalists, increased transparency, ensuring the proper to access to justice as geographical locations will not be a problem , building the proper perception, fostering public confidence and educating folk on how the judiciary functions are important benefits of live-streaming of court proceedings.  

Concerns Raised

  • The lack of technical infrastructure, internet connectivity especially , may be a major concern and therefore the technical glitches can make it worse.
  • The matters with a privacy dimension, like family matters or criminal matters, or matters with legal procedural intricacies etc. are ignored of the scope.
  • Lack of comprehensive guidelines might cause the misuse of live access or there are chances of it getting hacked in absence of proper cybersecurity.

Suggestions

  • Both audio-visual recordings and transcripts of oral arguments should be maintained for the aim of posterity.
  • Concerns associated with cyber safety got to be addressed beforehand so as to mitigate possible chances of hacking and knowledge being leaked.
  • The punishments for offences should be strict enough to discourage the offenders and it's to be made sure that there's no scope of corruption in handling that.
  • The SC should benefit of other modes of communication including the web , social media, television and radio, which can enable it to achieve a large cross-section of Indian society.

 

 

SOURCE: THE HINDU 

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