The e-committee of the Supreme Court of India (SC) has released the draft model rules for live-streaming and recording of court proceedings in public domain, and invited inputs and suggestions from all stakeholders.
"The sub-committee has held extensive deliberations. It took into account the principles enunciated in the decision of the Supreme Court in Swapnil Tripathi v Supreme Court of India [(2018) 10 SCC 639] including the concerns of privacy and confidentiality of litigants and witnesses, matters relating to business confidentiality, prohibition or restriction of access to proceedings or trials stipulated by central or state legislation and in some cases to preserve the larger public interest owing to the sensitivity of the case," a release from the SC says.
Therefore, it says, in order to foster greater transparency, inclusivity and access to justice, the project of live streaming of court proceedings has been undertaken on priority, so that access to proceedings, including on matters of public interest to citizens, journalists, civil society, academicians, and law students, on a real-time basis is enabled.
Advocate Jamshed Mistry, who along with SC senior counsel Indira Jaising, has been urging for live streaming of court proceedings and legal transcriptions of court proceedings, expressed his happiness after the draft model rules were released.
Reacting to the news, he said, “A red letter day for transparency in Indian courts! Delighted to see the Supreme Court finally implement its decision (through these draft rules) in Swapnil Tripathis case - for all courts pan India!”
He added that transcripts to be made available in regional languages is also a great feature.
The e-committee chairperson justice DY Chandrachud also wrote to chief justices of all high courts, requesting for their inputs and suggestions for better implementation of live streaming of court proceedings across India.
The model rules were framed by a sub-committee consisting of judges of the Bombay, Delhi, Madras and Karnataka High Courts.
The letter described the vision of the Supreme Court e-committee for the Indian judicial system as follows:
“The e-Committee, Supreme Court of India envisages a judicial system which is more accessible, efficient and equitable for every individual who engages with the justice delivery system.”
The letter also stressed on the access to live court proceedings as part of the right of access to justice envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“The right of access to justice, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution encompasses the right to access live court proceedings. To imbue greater transparency, inclusivity and foster access to justice, the e-committee has undertaken the project of live streaming of court proceedings on priority,” the letter written by justice Chandrachud said.
As per the draft, subject to the exclusions contained within these rules, all proceedings will be live-streamed by the court. Matrimonial matters, cases related with sexual offences, gender-based violence against women, matters related with children, and in-camera hearings, would be excluded from live-streaming, the committee suggested.
Matters where the bench is of the view, for reasons to be recorded in writing that publication would be antithetical to the administration of justice as well as cases, which in the opinion of the bench, may provoke enmity amongst communities likely to result in a breach of law and order are also excluded from live streaming.
In addition, recording of evidence, including cross-examination also cannot be live streamed.
In cases where the proceedings are not live-streamed, the recording should be maintained for usage by the court and the appellate court(s). However, access to the recording of the testimony of witnesses will not be given until such time that the evidence is recorded in its entirety.
“Transcription of the recordings would be made available to the advocate or litigant-in-person. In case of litigant-in-person, who is also a witness in the matter, the bench in its discretion will decide as to the stage at which the litigant-in-person should have access to the recordings of the testimonies concerning the other witnesses in the matter,” the draft says.
The e-committee, along with the department of justice, government of India is working under the national policy and action plan for implementation of information and communication technology (ICT) in the Indian judiciary.
The draft model rules are now available on website of e-committee. You can access the draft model rules here