Live streaming of Supreme Court proceedings-Court accepts Modal Guidelines , Project to be implemented in Phases

Live streaming of Supreme Court proceedings- Court accepts Modal Guidelines. Project to be implemented in Phases starting within confines of the Court  

ABCAUS Case Law Citation:
ABCAUS 2535 (2018) 09 SC

Important Case Laws Cited/relied upon by the parties:

Two Writ Petitions had been filed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court seeking a declaration for permitting live streaming of Supreme Court case proceedings of constitutional and national importance having an impact on the public at large and a direction to make available the necessary infrastructure for live streaming and to frame guidelines for the determination of such cases which are of constitutional and national importance.

The Petitions were heads by a Full Bench comprising of Hon’ble CJI , Hon’ble A.M. Khanwilkar and Hon’ble Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud.

The Attorney General for India, Shri K.K. Venugopal suggested the following guidelines to administer live streaming of Court proceedings:

1. The Live Streaming of Court proceedings should be introduced as a pilot project in Court No.1 and only in Constitution bench references. The success of this project will determine whether or not live streaming should be introduced in all courts in the Supreme Court and in Courts pan India.

2. To ensure that all persons including litigants, journalists, interns, visitors and lawyers are able to view the live streaming of the proceedings, a media room should be designated in the premises of the court with necessary infrastructural facilities. This will also ensure that courts are decongested. Provisions may also be made available for the benefit of differently abled persons.

3. Apart from live streaming, the Supreme Court may, in the future, also provide for transcribing facilities and archive the audio-visual record of the proceedings to make the webcast accessible to litigants and other interested persons who are unable to witness the hearings on account of constraints of time, resources, or the ability to travel long distances to attend hearing on every single date. Such webcasts will also allow students of law to supplement their academic knowledge and gain practical insights into cases of national importance.

4. It is pertinent that this Hon‟ble Court lay down guidelines to safeguard and limit the broadcasting and recording of its proceedings to ensure better access to justice. Some of the recommendations are:

(a) The Court must have the power to limit, temporarily suspend or disallow filming or broadcasting, if in its opinion, such measures are likely to interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair trial or otherwise interfere with the proper administration of justice.

(b) The Court may law down guidelines/criterion to determine what cases constitute proceedings of constitutional and national importance to seek permission for broadcasting

(c) Broadcasting must not be permitted in the cases involving:

(i) Matrimonial matters,

(ii) Matters involving interests of juveniles or the protection and safety of the private life of the young offenders.

(iii) Matters of National security,

(iv) To ensure that victims, witnesses or defendants can depose truthfully and without any fear. Special protection must be given to vulnerable or intimidated witnesses. It may provide for face distortion of the witness if she/he consents to the broadcast anonymously,

(v) To protect confidential or sensitive information, including all matters relating to sexual assault and rape, and

(vi) Matters where publicity would be antithetical to the administration of justice.

(vii) Cases which may provoke sentiments and arouse passion and provoke enmity among communities.

(d) Use of the footage would be restricted for the purpose of news, current affairs and educational purposes and should not be used for commercial, promotion, light entertainment, satirical programs or advertising.

(e) Without prior written authorization of the Supreme Court of India, live streaming or the webcast of the proceedings from the Supreme Court should not be reproduced, transmitted, uploaded, posted, modified, published or republished to the public.

(f) Any unauthorized usage of the live streaming and/or webcasts will be punishable as an offence under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 and the Information Technology Act, 2000 and any other provisions of the law in force. The law of contempt should apply to such proceedings. Prohibitions, fines and penalties may be provided for.

(g) The Courts may also lay down rules of coverage to provide for the manner in which the filming may be done and the equipment that will be allowed in court.

(h) Case management techniques should be introduced to ensure that matters are decided in a speedy manner and lawyers abide by time limits fixed prior to the hearing. A skeleton of arguments/Written submissions should be prepared and submitted to the Court by the lawyers prior to their arguments.

(i) The Court of Appeal in England, in November 2013, introduced streaming its proceedings on YouTube. The telecast is deferred by 70 seconds with the Judge having the power to mute something said in the proceedings if he feels they are inappropriate for public consumption.

(j) Like the Court of Appeal in England, the Supreme Court should also lay guidelines for having only two camera angles, one facing the judge and the other- the lawyer. The camera should not focus on the papers of the lawyer.

The Hon’ble High Court observed that Courts in India are ordinarily open to all members of public, who are interested in witnessing the court proceedings. However, due to logistical issues and infrastructural restrictions in courts, they may be denied the opportunity to witness live Court proceedings in propria persona. To consummate their aspirations, use of technology to relay or publicize the live court proceedings can be a way forward.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that courts in other countries / International Courts have addressed concerns of privacy, confidentiality and sensitivity of litigants, witnesses and cases in broadcasting live courtroom proceedings.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that the idea of open courts is crucial to maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice and Open courts ensure a check on the process of adjudication in judicial proceedings. Bentham regarded publicity about courtroom proceedings as a mechanism to prevent improbity of judges.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court generally agreed with the guidelines for live streaming of Court proceedings in the Supreme Court suggested by the Attorney General for India Shri K.K. Venugopal. The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that the project of live streaming on the “internet” and/or on radio and TV through live audio-visual broadcasting/telecasting universally by an official agency, such as Doordarshan, having exclusive telecasting rights and/or official website/mobile application of the Court, must be implemented in a progressive, structured and phased manner, with certain safeguards to ensure that the purpose of live streaming of proceedings is achieved holistically and that it does not interfere with the administration of justice or the dignity and majesty of the Court hearing the matter and/or impinge upon any rights of the litigants or witnesses.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that the entire project will have to be executed in phases  containing sub-phases or stagesBbefore the commencement of first phase of the project, formal rules will have to be framed by the Court to incorporate the recommendations made while keeping in mind various basic issues.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that until a full-fledged module and mechanism for live streaming of the court proceedings of the Supreme Court over the “internet” is evolved, in Phase-I live streaming can be done within the confines of the Court as a pilot project in following designated areas:

(a) Dedicated media room accessible to the litigants, advocates, clerks and interns.

(b) the Supreme Court Bar Association room/lounge;

(c) the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association room/lounge;

(d) the official chambers of the Attorney General, Solicitor General and Additional Solicitor Generals in the Supreme Court premises;

(e) Advocates‟ Chambers blocks.

(f) Press Reporters room.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court also stated that it is desirable to keep in mind other measures like :

(i) Appoint a technical committee,

(ii) Specialist video operator(s) working under the directions of the concerned Court

(iii) The angle and focus of the cameras

(iv) what

(iv) A case management system to ensure adherence to a fixed time limit

(v) copyright over the broadcast

Jutice Hon’ble Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud also framed a model guidelines for live-streaming of Court proceedings after duly considering the comprehensive guidelines as submitted by Mr K K Venugopal.

Hon’ble Supreme Court accepted the cause presented so as to uphold the constitutional rights of public and the litigants, in particular. 

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