Live video recording of court proceedings becomes a reality

Prime News, Nation (New Delhi), November 24:-Live video recordings of judicial proceeding have started in several trial courts and tribunals in various states with the help of Closed Circuit Televisions (CCTV) installed in court rooms, the Centre on Thursday informed the Supreme Court.

The apex court and various high courts have earlier refused to allow video recordings of judicial proceedings in courts.

Taking a reformatory approach and in a bid to bring in transparency, the top court had on March 28, for the first time, directed the installation of CCTV cameras without audio recording in courts of two districts of each state and union territory.

During the hearing, the court on Thursday commended the efforts of the government but raised concerns over the process being slow and sought to know why CCTVs were yet to be installed at Debt Recovery Tribunals and Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, where fiscal issues were adjudicated.

A bench of Justices Adarsh Goel and U U Lalit also asked the Centre to explore the possibility of connecting live recordings with the National Judicial Data Grid and file an updated status report in the second week of December.

Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand, appearing for Centre, informed the apex court that Chhattisgarh has installed CCTVs in trial courts of three districts, Delhi Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana in two districts each, Tamil Nadu in five and the entire state of Sikkim in all trial courts.

She said that states like Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur, Bihar, Rajasthan have initiated the process and were in communication with respective high courts and Ministry of Information and Technology.

The bench said that report of Punjab and Haryana High Court show that it has made a comprehensive plan of action to install CCTV cameras in all courts in four phases.

“The said model may, as far as possible, be adopted if found viable, at other places. A copy of this report may be put on the website of the Ministry of Law and Justice to facilitate coordination with all the High Courts and Tribunals,” it said.

The top court also raised concern over Bihar going slow in the process as it had said that tender process was in progress in all the 61 districts of the state.

It also pointed out that lot of work still remained to be done especially in respect of some tribunals like the Debt Recovery Tribunals, ITAT, Customs Excise Gold Appellate Tribunal and Consumer Forums, where even information has not been collected so far.

It took note that Central Administrative Tribunal has installed CCTV cameras at its principal bench while others like Airports Authority Appellate Tribunal, Electricity Appellate Tribunal, Industrial Tribunal and others have initiated the process.

In its affidavit, the Centre said the Registrars General of all high courts have been requested by a letter by the central government that immediate action may be taken to install cameras in all subordinate courts.

The government also said that a task force may also be constituted to review and examine the recordings to find the problems and take necessary corrective steps in case management system or other courts procedures were responsible for the rise in pendency of cases in these courts.

The apex court had on November 21 said there was no need for privacy in courtrooms as nothing private happened there and had favoured early installation of close circuit televisions in the courts.

On August 14, the apex court had favoured installation of CCTV cameras with audio recording of all court proceedings, including in its own complex along with those of the high courts and tribunals, to bring in transparency.

The top court had then observed that the constitutional courts in other countries had audio and video recording, as it was not a matter of privacy of judges. It had cited the example of judicial proceedings in the US Supreme Court, saying all these were available publicly, even on the Youtube.

The top court had, however, made it clear that the footage of the CCTV camera or the audio recording will not be made available under the Right To Information Act and not supplied to anyone without permission of the concerned court.

The apex court was hearing a plea filed by one Pradyuman Bisht seeking audio and video recording of court proceedings in order to bring transparency.

-(NAV, Inputs: Agencies)

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