High time for de-mystifying justice delivery system, says CJI on live streaming of court proceedings

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New Delhi, Jul 17 (PTI) Expressing keenness to start live streaming of proceedings in at least some of the courts in the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana said on Saturday that citizens' right to know can be furthered by “de-mystifying' the justice delivery system and widening its gates through such access.

It is only on the backs of an informed citizenry that a representative democracy can survive and evolve, the CJI said and called for a pragmatic approach on the issue of live streaming of the proceedings that can sometimes be a “double-edged sword”.

“The people of India are bestowed with the right to know under the Constitution, which includes knowledge of the institutions that serve them. One way to further this right is to allow the people access to watch the functioning of these institutions,' Justice Ramana said while speaking at the formal launch of live court proceedings at Gujarat High Court.

'The purpose is to keep the public informed. It is only on the backs of an informed citizenry that a representative democracy can survive and evolve,” the CJI said.

He said the constitutional courts, the Supreme Court and high courts, and the “largest democratic republic in the world” are the guardians of the constitutional mandate and for public confidence and faith to reach new heights, it is imperative for us to “widen the gates of justice”.

Justice Ramana said given the advancement in technology, live streaming from the apex court could be rolled out cost-effectively without imposing much of a burden on the exchequer.

The CJI said he was working out the logistics besides arriving at the “consensus of the full court”.

“It is high time for de-mystifying the justice delivery system in the country and furthering access through open courts. Access to justice will become a true reality when litigants and interested parties get to witness, understand and comprehend justice dispensation first hand,” CJI Ramana said.

Stressing on the need for live streaming the court proceedings, he said currently, the public obtains information through the media which sometimes leads to misinterpretation.

“In effect, the information from the courts is being filtered by agents of transmission. In the process, there is sometimes a transmission loss leading to misinterpretation of questions asked and observations made by the bench, due to the absence of context.

'Vested interests are eager to amplify these misinterpretations in order to embarrass or discredit the institution,” he said.

Through such direct access, the people can get first-hand information about the entire proceedings and the opinions of the judges, leaving little room for any mischief, he said.

The CJI said live streaming the proceedings was a step in the right direction but one must tread the path with caution.

“At times, live streaming of proceedings may become a double-edged sword. However, judges might feel the pressure of public scrutiny, which may ultimately result in a stressful environment that may not be conducive to justice dispensation.

'A judge must remember, even if justice commands standing up against the popular perception, he must do so out of his commitment to the oath he took under the Constitution,” he said.

A judge cannot be swayed by popular opinion and as a repository of people’s faith, a judge cannot afford to lose objectivity, he said.

The CJI had a word of caution for lawyers saying that with the increasing access, they should not go after publicity, rather they must ensure to put in all possible efforts to protect the best interests of clients.

Even after 74 years of independence, many incorrect notions still prevailed in the minds of the public, which hinder access to justice by discouraging people to seek redressal of their rights, he said.

It is this lack of direct access which gives space for “misconceptions” and the formalisation of the live streaming of court proceedings is the best cure for the malady, he said.

Live-streaming of proceedings is crucial for dissemination of information which is a sacrosanct aspect of Article 19 (freedom of speech and expression), he said.

“Through such direct access, the people can get first-hand information about the entire proceedings and the opinions of the judges, leaving little room for any mischief,” he added.

At the inaugural event that was held virtually, he congratulated the Chief Justice and Judges of Gujarat High Court for opening up their courts for everyone to watch the justice delivery system in action - live, unfiltered and unedited - as envisioned by the founding fathers.

In his address, the CJI also raised concerns with respect to the privacy of the parties in a court proceeding being live-streamed and said that rules governing the broadcast should be carefully calibrated in view of the competing interests. PTI ADS SJK RT

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