The Supreme Court e- committee has released draft rules for live-streaming court proceedings on Monday. The draft rules for live-streaming and recording court proceedings propose a 10-minute delay in transmission and exclusion of communally sensitive cases and matters that involve sexual offences and gender violence against women. These rules are part of the National Policy and Action Plan for implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the judiciary which was introduced in 2005. A bench of judges has been made to consider the implementation of these rules.
I believe these rules can be a major victory for the Indian Judicial System. These rules will help streamline the online court proceedings too. Every court has been relying on various platforms for online court proceedings. The Supreme Court is using Vidyo, the Kerala High Court is using Zoom (though the Central government has advised that it is not a safe platform), the Karnataka High Court seems to have developed its own in-house video conferencing facility, Delhi High Court is using WebEx, etc. This move will help clear this ambiguity and make the e-courts more accessible.
During the coronavirus pandemic not many people are able to witness the court proceedings. With the implementation of these rules there would be a possibility of an online gallery where the kin of the victim and the law students would be able to witness the court proceedings. This way the law students will be able to observe how the cases are being fought without exposing themselves to the virus. This move will also help keep a record of these court hearings so that these archives can be revisited by lawyers.
But, the live streaming of these proceedings should be done in a controlled manner. Opening the accessibility to everyone can cause harm to both the victim and the convict and their kin. If the live stream is open to the general public personal information can be leaked and users from various hacking groups and other countries can maliciously gain access to these meetings.
In his letter, Justice Chandrachud has also said the right of access to justice, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, “encompasses the right to access live court proceedings”. The Rules intend to balance between access to information and concerns of privacy and confidentiality. Which means they have taken in account the privacy and confidentiality issues. The rules state that personal information such as date of birth, home address, identity card number, bank account information, and the personal information of related parties, such as close relatives, witnesses and other participants, will be deleted or muted. The final decision will be taken after taking into consideration the suggestions from the various high courts in India.
Evidently the court has taken all the concerns regarding privacy and confidentiality under consideration and I am sure that these rules will be thorough and comprehensive on all matters. The rules will be out in some days though the final decision as to whether or not to allow the live-streaming of the proceedings or any portion thereof will be of the Bench, however, it will be guided by the principle of an open judicial process.