Recently, the Calcutta High Court allowed the live-streaming of a case on YouTube. It is the first time an Indian court has done that, although the battle for the same has been ongoing for a while. In 2018, the Supreme Court of India announced that live-streaming of court proceedings of matters of national importance and constitutional issues. It would serve as an instrument for greater accountability for the Court and will also keep the public informed. The Central government was expected to make arrangements for the live streaming of proceedings in phases. However, in the last two years, no progress is made. But how practical is it to incorporate such a system?
Taking a quick look around the world, this system has already been brought into practice by other countries. The Canadian Supreme Court is on the frontlines of adapting itself to technology and permitting audio-visual broadcasting of its proceedings. Australia also follows an open court system wherein courts in all Australian jurisdictions allow television cameras into courtrooms.
In India, the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, both have TV channels dedicated to them wherein the proceedings are telecasted live, and rightfully so. We, as citizens, have the right to know the debates and discussions about policies and legislations. Similarly, in the interest of justice, the common man should be able to know what is going on inside the highest Court of the country, as the Supreme Court is the custodian of the constitution.
The access to the discussions and debates happening in the Supreme Court must be available, even if the common man is not equipped to understand them completely. The major problems in the Indian legal system are lack of transparency and inaccessibility. The common man barely understands legal lingos and jargons, let alone the legal system. The knowledge of the law is concentrated only in the hands of lawyers and experts, making the common man susceptible. The Supreme Court’s verdict on live-streaming could be a significant step towards increasing transparency and accountability while making sure that the intricacies of the legal system are within the reach of a common man.
One major question, though, is how to identify which issue is of national importance? One could argue that the 2012 Delhi gang rape is a case of national importance since it led to the enactment of POSCO and also initiated a nationwide discussion on the death penalty. However, in such a case, the family of the victim might not be comfortable with the details of the case being live-streamed nationwide. Some guidelines are needed in this regard which the Court itself can formulate keeping in mind the importance of the issue to the general public and the privacy and individual rights of the parties involved.
Live-streaming can help in making the court proceedings accessible to people who are not in Delhi or cannot get the pass to observe the procedures in person. Another benefit would be to the young lawyers, who will be able to learn from watching the process in the highest Court of the country. It could potentially lead to better outcomes in lower courts as well. With live-streaming of the proceedings, citizens would gain confidence in the courts by seeing judicial work in action and learning first-hand how the legal system works.
Read more: The Supreme Court of India Needs a Breather
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.