All Proceedings Under SC/ST Act Have To Be Video Recorded: Bombay HC

All Proceedings Under SC/ST Act Have To Be Video Recorded: Bombay HC

Section 15A (10) of the SC/ST Act states that, “All proceedings relating to offences under this Act shall be video recorded”.

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Wednesday, March 13, 2024, 06:24 PM IST
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Bombay HC | PTI

Mumbai: In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court has held that all proceedings under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act have to be video recorded as per 15A (10) of the Act.

“It would be necessary to video record any proceeding relating to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 even though the proceedings are held in open court,” a bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Sarang Kotwal said.

Section 15A (10) of the SC/ST Act states that, “All proceedings relating to offences under this Act shall be video recorded”. The bench held that the Section 15A (10) of the SC ST Act is “mandatory”.

The bench emphasised that the “objective to be achieved is effective implementation of the Amended Chapter IV-A of the Atrocities Act, which is meant to protect the rights of victims and witnesses”. The division bench noted that hearing of bail proceedings under the 14A of Act is a ‘judicial proceeding’ as contemplated under section 15-A of the SC ST Act.

The issue was raised during the hearing in bail pleas of three doctors - Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal - accused of abetting the suicide of their junior, Dr Payal Tadvi, in 2019.

On August 9, 2019, Justice Sadhana Jadhav noted that the SC/ST Act didn't mention what is to be considered as proceedings and that the word “proceedings” was not defined. The judge opined that the hearing of the bail application does not amount to proceeding as contemplated under section 15A (10) of the Act hence this provision would not be applicable.

However, Judge Jadhav further said that there are no rules framed and there is no specific direction for implementation as to whether it would mean only video recording or video/audio recording. Hence, she referred the issue to be decided by a division bench.

The judges clarified that the judgement will not have retrospective effect. “This judgment answering the reference will not affect the past proceedings which are not recorded. Effect of this judgment would be prospective,” the bench underlined.

The court emphasised that as of today, all the courts in the state are not equipped with the facility of video recording. “... it is the duty of the State Government to provide these facilities. Therefore, we direct the State Government to provide the facility of video recording in all the Courts in the State of Maharashtra wherever the proceedings under the Atrocities Act are to be taken up. This shall be done at the earliest,” the bench added.

However, the bench added, that till the time such facilities are provided, the Courts where the facilities are not provided, may proceed without video recording the proceedings “especially when the personal liberty of an accused is at stake”.

The court told Advocate General Birendra Saraf, who was present in the court, that it would pass an administrative order and send a proposal to the government. Saraf assured the court that it would be taken up at the earliest.

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