New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed the live streaming of its proceedings, saying the move will bring “transparency and accountability” to the judicial process and was manifestly in the “public interest”. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said that a pilot project may initially be taken up for about three months by live streaming only cases of national and constitutional importance from Court Number 1 presided over by the Chief Justice. “Progressively, as and when the infrastructure is ready, this court can expand the ambit of live streaming to cover all cases (except for the ones which are excluded),” Justice Chandrachud said in a separate but concurring judgment.
The court said that live streaming was important to “re-emphasise” the significance of live streaming as an extension of the principle of open justice and open courts. However, the process of live streaming should be subjected to carefully structured guidelines, the bench added. Justice Khanwilkar, also speaking for Chief Justice Misra, said: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Live streaming as an extension of the principle of open courts will ensure that the interface between a court hearing with virtual reality will result in the dissemination of information in the widest possible sense, imparting transparency and accountability to the judicial process.”
Not all cases may be live streamed, said the court, adding that certain sensitive cases like matrimonial or sexual assault cases, matters where children and juveniles are involved, like Protection of Children from Sexual Offences cases, should be excluded. Live streaming will be carried out with minimal delay to allow time for screening sensitive information or any exchange that ought not to be streamed, the judgment added.
The final authority to regulate suspension or prohibition of live streaming in a particular case, where the administration of justice so requires, must be with the presiding Judge of each court. “The copyright over all the material recorded and broadcast in this court shall vest with this court only and the recordings and broadcast may not be used by anyone for commercial purposes. Archives shall be maintained of all live streamings, to be hosted on the court website.”
The bench said that live streaming of proceedings is crucial to the dissemination of knowledge about judicial proceedings and granting full access to justice to the litigant. “Access to justice can never be complete without the litigant being able to see, hear and understand the course of proceedings first hand. Apart from this, live streaming is an important facet of a responsive judiciary which accepts and acknowledges that it is accountable to the concerns of those who seek justice. Live streaming is a significant instrument of establishing the accountability of other stakeholders in the justicing process, including the Bar. “Moreover, the government as the largest litigant has to shoulder the responsibility for the efficiency of the judicial process. Full dissemination of knowledge and information about court proceedings through live streaming thus subserves diverse interests of stakeholders and of society in the proper administration of justice,” it added.
The apex court said that the Chief Justices of the High Courts should be commended to consider the adoption of live streaming both in the High Courts and in the district judiciaries in phases, commensurate with available resources and technical support. The High Courts would have to determine the modalities for doing so by framing appropriate rules, the apex court added. Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had earlier submitted comprehensive guidelines for live streaming of court proceedings.