Live streaming of court proceedings will boost transparency

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In yet another move that can improve transparency in India’s legal system, the Supreme Court on Monday said it was ready to go live on camera while the Union government mooted a separate TV channel — similar to the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha TV channels — for the live streaming of court proceedings. This decision comes on the heels of two other important apex court orders: recently, the court allowed accredited and non-accredited journalists to carry their mobile phones into a courtroom, a privilege that was previously extended only to lawyers;

and earlier this year, it allowed the installation of CCTV cameras inside court premises in at least two districts of each state and Union Territory. The second step was taken for security reasons. The video recordings, the court ordered, will not be accompanied by corresponding audio nor will they be available to the public under the Right To Information Act. The videos will only be released to the public under directives of the high courts.

Along with these steps, with an aim to fast-track the disposal of pending cases, the Union government too has been going for a major transformation of courtrooms into digital, paperless entities. According to the plan, 14,249 courts will get these facilities under the central government’s E-courts Mission Mode Project.

Live streaming of court proceedings, if implemented properly, will boost transparency and help litigants since they would be able to hear the arguments that their lawyers are making inside courtrooms, without spending money and time on travel. The decision, many feel, could also cut down adjournments, many of which are caused by unpreparedness of lawyers as they will be under public scrutiny. There are already more than 3.4 crore pending cases in India’s courts.

More importantly, the use of technology can also solve a critical challenge that the Indian legal system faces: lack of physical space in the court premises. In fact, the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, has often raised this issue, saying that overcrowded rooms make it difficult for judges to maintain court decorum. However, the audio quality to accompany the live streaming needs to be top notch. Otherwise, it will defeat the purpose of this progressive move.

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