CJI terms live streaming as 'double edged' sword, advises judges not to get swayed by popular opinion

By PTI
NEW DELHI: Live streaming of court proceedings will remove misconceptions about the justice delivery system and the Supreme Court is keen to make the facility available from at least some of its courts, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said on Saturday.

He was speaking after inaugurating the live streaming facility — which makes it possible to watch court proceedings online — at the Gujarat High Court through video link.

Speaking on the same occasion, Justice D Y Chandrachud, another apex court judge, said though live streaming is being used widely during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is here to stay even after normalcy returns.

The CJI, however, cautioned judges to not get deterred from their duty to protect the “right of one against the might of many” in the face of “increased public gaze” which they may face due to live streaming.

“Even after 74 years of Independence, multiple incorrect notions still prevail in the minds of the public regarding the justice delivery system.

It is high time for demystifying the justice delivery system in the country and furthering access to 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,” Justice Ramana said.

Live streaming of court proceedings was a “step in the right direction” but one must tread on this path with caution, he added.

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

With increased public gaze, judges might become “a subject of multiple debates”, the CJI said.

“This should never deter him (a judge) from his duty to protect the right of one against the might of many,” he added.

The right to know as bestowed under the Constitution also includes the knowledge of the institutions that concern people, and one way to promote it is to allow people access to the proceedings of the courts, Justice Ramana said.

“We are keen to start live (streaming of) proceedings in at least some of the courts of the Supreme Court. We are working out the logistics and working on the consensus of the full court. With the aid of modern technologies, I am given to understand that we can introduce the live streaming in a cost-effective manner without imposing much burden on the exchequer,” he said.

It will also resolve the issue of “misconceptions” that emerge due to “transmission loss” caused by the media, the CJI said.

Such “transmission loss” causes “misinterpretation of questions asked and observations made by the bench due to the absence of context” and “vested interests are eager to amplify this misinterpretation in order to embarrass the institutions”, he said.

A committee headed by Justice Chandrachud “is playing a wonderful role and bringing all the courts on board to unleash the transparency revolution with the aid of modern technology,” he said.

Gujarat High Court became the first court in the country on Saturday to formally launch live streaming of its proceedings.

Justice Chandrachud said in his speech that this will soon become a country-wide feature.

“As (Gujarat High Court) Chief Justice Vikram Nath said, it will trickle down, and it will trickle horizontally, and will trickle up as well, I hope,” he said.

“It (to appear on screen) is not a very easy thing for a judge to do because we are used to being very cloistered in our courtroom. This is truly a new age that the Indian judiciary is moving into,” said Justice Chandrachud.

Live streaming became necessary during the pandemic but it will remain equally essential even when the normal functioning of courts resumes, he said.

“It adds to transparency,” he added.

It is easy to target judges for their holidays, but people do not realize “the immensity of work we do even when we have time off, including on the weekends,” Chandrachud said, adding that live streaming will also reduce the cost for litigants.

During the pandemic, between March 24, 2020 to July 14, 2021, 1.60 crore cases were registered of which one crore were disposed of, he informed.

As per the Electronic Transaction Aggregation and Analysis Layer (E-TAAL) of the Government of India, E-court services have recorded more than 354.1 crore e-transactions during the pandemic, he said.

Justice M R Shah of the Supreme Court said one has to move with the times.

“I can say with pride and privilege that when Gujarat leads, there is always a success, and Gujarat always takes the lead,” he said.

Chief Justice of the High Court Vikram Nath said that live streaming would offer “transparency and accountability” as “sunlight dispels darkness, as knowledge dispels ignorance”.