SC says it is ready to go live, Centre moots a TV channel

The Supreme Court said on Monday that it is ready to go live on camera while the government mooted a separate TV channel for live-streaming court proceedings.

A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said a livestream is only an extension of the ‘open court’ system, where the public can walk in and watch court proceedings. However, with court proceedings beamed live on air, litigants, law students and the public can watch them as they happen.

Spared from travel

Chief Justice Misra said a livestream would help litigants follow the proceedings in their case and also assess their lawyers’ performance. People from far-flung States such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala do not have to travel all the way to the national capital for a day’s hearing.

Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal proposed a dedicated channel like the Rajya Sabha TV and the Lok Sabha TV for the Supreme Court. He agreed that a livestream would keep a check on lawyers’ conduct inside the courtrooms. With the entire country watching them, there would be fewer interruptions, raised voices and adjournments from the lawyers. Mr. Venugopal compared the scene inside the courtroom to the sober atmosphere in the British courts, where proceedings are live-streamed.

He, however, expressed reservations about live-streaming cases involving national security concerns, matrimonial disputes and rape cases. A public viewing of marital dispute and rape case proceedings would seriously affect justice and amount to a violation of the fundamental right to privacy.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, who filed the petition in the court in person, cautioned that agreements with broadcasters should be on a non-commercial basis. No one should profit from the arrangement. She also submitted that there should be no unauthorised reproduction. The Bench asked Mr. Venugopal to address it on the issue of framing guidelines for live-streaming proceedings. The next hearing is scheduled for July 23.

Ms. Jaising said citizens have the right to information and matters of constitutional and national importance can be live-streamed. If livestream of the top court’s proceedings is not possible, alternatively the video recording should be allowed, she argued.

“This writ petition is filed as
pro bono
for enforcement of public interest, to advance the rule of law and to bring accessibility and transparency in the administration of justice,” her plea said.

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