It’ll be a big step towards transparency and quick justice, say petitioners

The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a proposal for video-recording court proceedings to ensure transparency as well as cut down delays in disposal of cases. It was submitted before a Bench, headed by Justice D.K. Jain, by counsel Indira Unninayar, appearing for the Janhit Manch along with counsel Prashant Bhushan.

At present, court proceedings are largely not recorded, and if recorded, are summarised by way of orders by the presiding officers/judges.

In 2008, the Janhit Manch, Common Cause, Ravi Goenka, a chartered accountant and the Lok Sewak Sangathan filed a writ petition highlighting systemic delays in the judiciary: lack of proper management, inadequate judge strength and infrastructure, including a very limited budget allocation of 0.2 per cent even though justice is guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Besides the Union of India, all the States and Union territories are listed as respondents. Though the case was listed several times, it was only last week that the Bench asked the petitioners to submit a proposal as to the practice prevalent in other countries. In these submissions, the petitioners said: “Through videography, which is cheap (Rs. 100 per litigant), the opacity in the system and delays will reduce considerably… With a tiny mechanical device, you will have records of proceedings, something taken for granted in many countries but absent from ours.”

The purpose “is to ensure that there are proper and accurate court records so that the lis/dispute is properly addressed. Also the conduct of various stakeholders, including that of persons seeking and obtaining adjournments, for the asking, is recorded. Perjury and contempt that are routine will get addressed. And there will be increased confidence in the system.”

The petitioners pointed out that video-recording was being done in Australia and New Zealand. In the U.S., there was a proposal to video-record court proceedings, and a three-year pilot project, in which 14 federal trial courts volunteered to participate, was under way. In the U.K., the Supreme Court’s proceedings were being televised. Audio recordings/transcripts of proceedings were available, subject to permission.

The petitioners said introduction of video-recording would be a big step towards transparency, equality and realisation of quick justice.

The case will come up for hearing on February 19, 2013.

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