The spotlight and cameras will focus on Judges, lawyers, litigants, accused and witnesses. From the comfort of their homes, the general public can watch the unfolding of absorbing courtroom dramas involving the high and mighty from almost every sphere of national life, the best of the lawyers – orators, dramatists, persuaders, naysayers and the wittiest, and the Lords of the proceedings – the Judges.
“Cameras will be installed in the courtroom covering at least five angles; one towards the Bench, the second and third towards the advocates engaged in the concerned matter, the fourth towards the accused (where applicable) and the fifth towards the deponent/witness, as required,” the draft rules proposed.
But, no one other than the court would be able to livestream the proceedings, even the recordings of the livestreamings, for the draft rules said doing so will be punishable under contempt of court law, copyright and Information Technology laws.
“No person/entity (including print and electronic media, and social media platforms) other than an authorised person/entity shall record, share and/or disseminate live-streamed proceedings or archival data. This provision shall also apply to all messaging applications. Any person/entity acting contrary to this provision will be prosecuted as per law. The Court shall have the exclusive copyright in the recordings and archival data. Any unauthorised usage of the Live-stream will be punishable as an offence under the Indian Copyright Act, 1957, Information Technology Act, 2000, and other provisions of law, including the law of Contempt,” it said.
The SC e-Committee headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud held extensive deliberations with High Court Judges – Justices Rajiv Shakdher (Delhi), Satish C Sharma (MP now in Karnataka), Arvind Kumar (Karnataka), T S Shivagnanam (Madras) and Nitin jamdar (Bombay) – to frame draft rules in accordance with a three-year-old SC judgment clearing the decks for live streaming of court proceedings.
A three-judge SC bench on September 26, 2018 in ‘Swapnil Tripathi’ had agreed for live telecast of court proceedings and laid down guidelines for its phased commencement. It had allowed a time-lagged live-telecast, with the stop button solely entrusted to the Judges. Justices A M Khanwilkar and Chandrachud were part of the bench that had given separate but concurring judgments. Recently CJI N V Ramana had said he was actively considering the live telecast of SC proceedings.
The e-Committee laid down detailed procedure for live-streaming from each district court complex with a time lag of 10 minutes, ostensibly to give the Judges the control of eliminating untowards incidents from reaching the public, which has in past watched unsavoury incidents during the live telecasts from Parliament and Assemblies.
There is an exhaustive list of matters where there will be no live telecast – Matrimonial matters; Cases involving sexual offence including gender violence cases against women, POCSO Act and Juvenile Justice Act; In-camera proceedings; Matters barred for reporting by the presiding Judge; Cases, which in the opinion of the Bench, may provoke enmity amongst communities likely to result in a breach of law and order; Recording of evidence, including cross-examination; Privileged communications between the parties and their advocates”.
While giving the Chief Justice of the concerned HC absolute discretion in allowing or denying live-streaming of any case, the draft rules makes another interesting provision – “Cameras shall not audio-video record the media persons and the visitors present during the Proceedings.” It may have been incorporated as journalists and visitors often make snide remarks against Judges hearing the case, including their orientation towards a particular cause.
The draft rules also allow a Judge to stop live streaming during dictation of orders. “In case the judge concerned on the bench is desirous of opting out of livestreaming while dictating the order/oral judgment, live-streaming will be paused during that period. In such circumstances, the monitors will display a message ‘order-dictation in progress’, It said.
The recording of the proceedings of the court will be vetted by designated authorities and shall be posted, usually within three days of the conclusion of the proceedings, on the Courts’ website or made available on such digital platforms, as directed by the Court, the draft rules said.