Court live-streaming could be abused, says CJI

Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde. File   | Photo Credit: Sandeep Saxena

Attorney General of India K.K. Venugopal on Monday pushed for live-streaming court proceedings to make hearings accessible to all.

But Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde, heading a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, sounded a cautionary note, saying it was susceptible to “abuses.”

The exchange came on a day when the Gujarat High Court live-streamed its court hearings. “Live-streaming should be something on My Lords’ minds... Everyone can then watch the court,” the Attorney General submitted.

Mr. Venugopal reminded the Supreme Court of its own judgment of September 2018 in favour of “opening up” the apex court through live-streaming. The judgment has remained unimplemented. Mr. Venugopal hinted that the pandemic offered a fresh opportunity.

“There are problems which should not be discussed publicly... There are certain abuses... We will take a decision soon enough, otherwise successive Chief Justices [turning to Justice D.Y. Chandrachud who is in line to be CJI] will do,” said Chief Justice Bobde.

Open court system

Justice Chandrachud was one of the three judges on the Bench that gave the verdict on live-streaming in September 2018. In fact, he had noted in his separate opinion that live-streaming of proceedings would be the true realisation of the “open court system.” Mr. Venugopal had assisted that Bench as amicus curiae. His suggestions were later adopted as guidelines in the September 2018 judgment.

The issue of live-streaming came up as a Special Bench led by the CJI was taking stock of the virtual court system initiated soon after the pandemic lockdown. Chief Justice Bobde said the courts required access to the fibre optic network to ensure better connectivity even in the remotest parts of the country. The Chief Justice said the north-eastern parts could be connected via satellite.

At this point, senior advocate Harish Salve came on to suggest the Jio network.

“HCs can frame rules”

Justice Chandrachud, on the Bench along with Justice L. Nageswara Rao, said each high court can make its own rules itself and trial courts under it for the virtual court system. Uniform rules for all high courts would prove difficult, considering the difference in connectivity and e-literacy.

On April 6, the Supreme Court had upheld the virtual court system and deemed all restrictions imposed on people from entering, attending or taking part in court hearings as lawful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 7:21:03 PM |

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