Judicial Reforms

Making justice accessible through live streaming

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Right to access justice under Article 21

Mains level : Paper 2- Live-streaming of proceeding to make justice accessible

Livestreaming of the judicial proceeding goes a long way in increasing the access of justice which is granted under Article 21. This article examines the evolution in judiciary and making justice accessible.

Judiciary adapting to changes

  •  As the lockdown began, the Court had to quickly find the technology and create protocols for virtual courts and e-hearings.
  • Before this, there was an open courtroom that the public could access.
  • This protected the right to access justice, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Access to justice without physical classroom

  • Now that the Court is proactively adopting technology, it must expand the right of access to justice by live-streaming proceedings.
  • Further, court proceedings must also be documented and preserved for future generations.
  • Both audio-visual recordings and transcripts of oral arguments should be maintained for this purpose.

Evolution of access to court

  • The Supreme Court maintained no public record of its own proceedings in the past.
  • Nor were its proceedings broadcast live for public viewing.
  • Over time, security concerns meant that the public could only enter courtrooms in the SC with a pass.
  • Due to space constraints, law students were not permitted to enter courtrooms on Mondays and Fridays when the Court heard fresh matters.

A case that led to live broadcast of the proceedings

  • In its 2018 judgment in Swapnil Tripathi v Supreme Court of India, the Court recommended that proceedings be broadcast live.
  • The SC held that live streaming proceedings is part of the right to access justice under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  •  Justice DY Chandrachud noted that open courts help foster public confidence in the judiciary.
  • Further, publishing court proceedings is an aspect of Article 129, per which the Supreme Court is a court of record.
  • Journalists, young lawyers, civil society activists and academics would all benefit from live streaming, the Court opined.
  • The guidelines proposed live-streaming cases of constitutional and national importance as a pilot project including Constitution Bench cases.
  • Matrimonial cases and those involving national security could be excluded.

Recording the proceedings- Examples

  • Internationally constitutional court proceedings are recorded in some form or the other.
  • In Australia, proceedings are recorded and posted on the high court’s website.
  • Proceedings of the Supreme Courts of Brazil, Canada, England and Germany are broadcast live.
  • The Supreme Court of the US does not permit video recording, but oral arguments are recorded, transcribed, and available publicly.
  • Democracies aside, in China, court proceedings are live streamed from trial courts up to the Supreme People’s Court of China.

India stands alone

  • India stands alone amongst leading constitutional democracies in not maintaining audio or video recordings or even a transcript of court proceedings.
  • Court hearings can be turning points in the life of a nation: ADM Jabalpur comes readily to mind.
  • More recently, there are a number of cases where the Supreme Court’s judgments have changed citizens’ lives — Aadhaar, Section 377, Sabarimala, NRC and the triple talaq judgments are among them.

Steps to make justice accessible

  • The Court started providing vernacular translations of its judgments.
  • Non-accredited journalists were permitted to live-tweet court proceedings.
  • During the lockdown, journalists have been permitted to view virtual court proceedings in real time.
  • If that technology is available, it could be extended to members of the public, who can then view court proceedings themselves.
  • Due to pandemic for the next few years, Indian courts will have to adopt a combination of virtual and in-person hearings.

Consider the question “Live-streaming and recordings of the court proceeding helps in reinforcing the public faith in the judiciary. Comment.”

Conclusion

Openness and transparency reinforce the public’s faith in the judicial system. Livestreaming and recording of the proceeding will open the door to ensure the same.

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