Measure to prevent the videos from reaching online portals

In a significant ruling, the Madras High Court Bench here on Wednesday directed lower courts to obtain affidavits of secrecy from professionals engaged by lower courts to record on video the evidence adduced during criminal trials by witnesses who cannot hear or speak.

Disposing of a criminal appeal, Justice P.N. Prakash pointed out that Section 119 of the Evidence Act, which came into effect from March 15, 2013 following an amendment by the Parliament, makes it mandatory to videograph the evidence adduced by such people through interpreters or special educators.

Further, the Madras High Court had issued a circular to all subordinate courts containing a list of advocates trained to provide assistance to the court for recording the evidence of those who cannot hear or speak. The expenses for videographing were also ordered to be defrayed from contingent fund.

However, “during my informal discussions with some trial court judges about the viability of videographing the evidence of dumb witnesses and videographing the confession statements under Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure, they expressed a genuine apprehension,” the judge said.

“The judges felt that the videographer, who would store the video in his computer system, may knowingly or unknowingly share it with third parties, in which event, it may even get uploaded in online platforms and portal like YouTube and it will be a great injustice and embarrassment to the witnesses.

“I gave my anxious consideration to these possibilities and I felt that if an affidavit of undertaking is obtained from the videographer to the effect that he will not disclose the proceedings to anybody, will maintain secrecy and will also not retain a copy of the proceedings in any form, it can to some extent be a deterrent.

“Therefore, trial courts should obtain an undertaking affidavit from the videographer as aforesaid and make it part and parcel of the court records so that action can be taken against the videographer, if he violates the undertaking,” the judge said.

In so far as the present case was concerned, the judge allowed the appeal partly and modified the charge of rape levelled against the appellant Mariyadoss of Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district to attempt-to-rape.

Sentence commuted

He also commuted the sentence from seven to four years of rigorous imprisonment.

Pointing out that the trial court as well as the first appellate court had not awarded any compensation to the victim girl, who cannot hear or speak, the judge ordered the appellant to either pay her a compensation of Rs.1 lakh or undergo six more months of rigorous imprisonment.

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