On 26th September 2018, the Supreme Court of India (SC) passed a judgment in favour of the proposition of live streaming of court proceedings of cases of constitutional and national importance. The bench comprised of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A. M. Khanwilkar and D. Y. Chandrachud. This judgment pushed for greater transparency and judicial accountability in the country. The live streaming of the court proceedings upholds the principle of open justice and wide access to judicial proceedings, which the court terms as the ‘need of the hour’. This will enable to protect the confidence of the public in judiciary institution and maintain the respect for the judiciary (Mistry, 2018). The article attempts to analyze the judgment passed by the SC on the four principles of the open justice.
The significance of open court was emphasized back in 1966 by the majority in Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar v State of Maharashtra. The then Chief Justice Gajendragadkar stated that open court enables healthy and fair administration of justice. He further added that trails open for public scrutiny acts as an instrument for creating public confidence. According to Lord Chief Justice Gordon Hewart, the underlying principle of open justice is: “Justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.” – this became the primary principle on which advocate Indira Jaising filed the writ petition on live streaming of courtroom proceedings to the SC in 2018. According to her, judicial processes govern an individual’s behaviour and protect our rights and property; and having an access to the judicial proceedings through live streaming brings in transparency and accountability. Live streaming acts as an instrument for the efficient implementation of open court and enables access to courtroom proceedings digitally to media and public.
Open justice not only functions as a guiding judicial decision making but also lays down rules for the proceeding of the court to maintain accountability (Bosland & Gill, 2014). The respective rules are, one, case proceedings and decisions should be done in 'open court'. SC through its judgment of live streaming will stream and broadcast the court proceedings with the assistance of the National Information Centre and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. It will also maintain an archive of all the live streaming to be hosted on the court's website. Two, the evidence communicates publicly to the ones present in the court. The judgment on live streaming enables access to courtroom proceedings (including the witness' evidence) to the ones present within the courtroom and the one not present in the courtroom on a real-time basis through broadcasting.
Three, the environment should encourage making of fair and accurate reports of the proceedings, including the media. The judgment refers to the case of Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar v State of Maharashtra, the petitioners at the SC claimed that the High Court did not have the inherent power to pass an oral order prohibiting the publication of the evidence of the witness. Petitioners claimed that the order violated their fundamental right under article 19(1)(a). While emphasising the principle of fair and accurate reporting of open courts SC upheld High Court's oral order of prohibiting the media to publish the evidence of the witness. If deemed fair, the judgment makes the provision for the presiding judge of each court to suspend or prohibit the live streaming.
Four, the rules of the open justice are not absolute in nature. The judgment takes care of this principle by not allowing all the cases for live streaming. These cases include cases related to matrimonial matters, sexual assaults, cases of children and juvenile. Moreover, if there is an objection filed by a litigant against live streaming of the case on the grounds of privacy and confidentiality, the presiding judge will have the final authority on live streaming of such a case. The SC judgment on live streaming of the courtroom proceedings successfully imbibes all the principles of the open court. The judgment makes a provision of anonymity and face distortion of the witness to protect the right to privacy of the witness and to make the trail fair and just.
According to Justice D. Y. Chandrachud, "public confidence in the judiciary and in the process of judicial decision making is crucial for preserving the rule of law and maintains the stability of social fabric." The judgment brings in transparency and reduces the reliance of the society on newspapers and social media platforms; thus, accurate and comprehensive description of cases serves open justice at large.
Open courts scrutinize the process of adjudication in judicial proceedings. Open court enables the public to access the information, educates them about the processes and outcomes of a case and helps them develop a reasonable perception about the judiciary. It nurtures public confidence by allowing the public to view judicial proceedings and ensure the judges apply the law in a fair and impartial manner. To conclude, the SC has paved the way for building stronger public confidence towards the judicial proceedings by making it accessible to the public, empowering the public’s right to know and protecting the judicial interest of the society.
Bosland, J. & Gill, J. (2014). The Principle of Open Justice and the Judicial Duty to Give Public Reasons. The University of Melbourne, 38, 482-487.
Jaising, I. (2018). “Petition to Supreme Court of India Requesting Live Streaming of Court Proceedings”
Mistry, J. (2018). Here’s why Supreme Court’s decision to allow live streaming of court proceedings is a significant one. [Blog]. Mumbai Mirror. Retrieved from https://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/opinion/blogs/blog-heres-why-supreme-courts-decision-to-allow-live-streaming-of-court-proceedings-is-a-significant-one/articleshow/65997374.cms
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