Keep court proceedings on sensitive cases be excluded from live-streaming, suggests AG

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New Delhi : The Attorney General has recommended that matters of national security, protection of confidential or sensitive information, or those which may provoke sentiments, arouse passions and provoke enmity among the communities should be excluded from the proposed live-streaming of the top court proceedings

Mentioning the eight categories of cases including matrimonial matters, cases of sexual assault and rape, cases involving juveniles requiring the protection and safety of the private life of young offenders, and those requiring witness protection, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal has in his recommendations said these should be kept out of the live-streaming.

He has also sought laying down the criteria to determine which category of cases would come within the ambit of matters of constitutional and national importance requiring their live-streaming.

The Attorney General's "comprehensive recommendations" were handed over to the bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud which the court asked him to consider further as senior counsel Indira Jaising suggested audio recording of the court proceedings and maintaining their archive, and the top court haing its own channel on the lines of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TVs.

The Attorney General has said that the use of footage would be restricted for the purposes of news, current affairs and educational purposes only.

Seeking to prohibit the use of the feed for any commercial, promotional, light entertainment, satirical programmes or advertising, Attorney General Venugopal has recommended that the "live streaming or the webcast of the proceedings should not be reproduced, transmitted, uploaded, posted, modified, published or re-published to the public" without prior "written authorisation" of the top court.

Any unauthorised usage of the live streaming or webcasts would be "punishable as an offence under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, the Information Technology Act, 2000 and any other provision of law in force".

It has favoured application of contempt to such proceedings coupled with prohibitions, fines and penalties.

Recommending that the live streaming of the top court's proceedings would start as a pilot project from Court No. 1 presided over by the Chief Justice of India, the Attorney General has said that the success of the pilot project would determine whether or not the live streaming should be introduced in all the courts of the Supreme Court and in courts pan India.

It says that the court must have the power to "limit, temporarily suspend, or disallow filming or broadcasting, if in its opinion, such measures are likely to interfere with the rights of the parties to the fair trial or otherwise interfere with the proper administration of justice."

Suggesting the introduction of case management techniques to ensure that "matters are decided in speedy manner and lawyers abide by the time limits fixed prior to the hearing", AG has recommended that the top court should lay the guidelines, on the lines of Court of Appeal in England, for having only two camera angles, one facing the judge and the other the lawyer.

The camera should not focus on the papers of lawyers.

The AG recommendations say that the live streaming of its proceedings in the cases of constitutional and national importance would make the concept of open court hearing more meaningful as it would be accessible to the people living down south in Kerala and in Northeast who otherwise are not able to travel to the national capital on every hearing date due to constraints of time and place.

He has said that this would help in decongesting the court room which are otherwise packed with litigants, lawyers, law students and interns.

The suggested recommendation by the AG is in pursuance to a plea of Jaising, who had moved the court seeking live streaming and video recording of court proceedings of cases of national importance with a bearing on a large section of people.

Jaising had based her PIL on the right to receive information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and the principle of open courts and access to justice as protected under Article 21.

Pointing to the principle of law that justice should not only be done but also seen to be done, Jaising has contended that the best possible way to achieve this is to live-stream the proceedings in important cases so that arguments of all counsel and interaction between judges and lawyers during hearings is "recorded accurately and without distortions".