Technology has deepened its role in the Indian Judicial System since Independence when there was no such expectation of this level of modernisation. History had been created on 26 August when Apex court of India completed its first day on live stream which can be accessed by the general public easily on their devices. This is not the first time in India when live streaming has taken place, before the Supreme Court of India the High Courts of Gujarat, Patna and others started live streaming.
This step towards digitalisation is the result of the decision of the Supreme Court in SWAPNIL TRIPATHI v. SUPREME COURT OF INDIA, in which the court said that matters which relate to the constitutional and national importance must be heard in live streaming as it has been considered as a fundamental right of an individual in the form of right to access justice under Article 21. Not only India, various countries including Brazil, Australia, and others had already introduced this system.
After this step of our Judiciary, there are broadly two types of public opinions which are coming into view out of which one is supporting this decision and the other is concerned about the consequences.
The supportive argument is based on the enrichment of legal knowledge of the general public and increasing engagement of the public in constitution and law. This live stream is considered as cost-effective and provides direct engagement of the public in matters of constitutional and national importance. Also this will help to improve the procedure of the case proceedings as judges and lawyers know that the public is watching and will be much disciplined. Overall, the court proceedings would be more systematic and some positive corrections will be made.
The other argument highlights the consequences of this action of the judiciary. Before the supreme court, other high courts have seen various spliced videos of the proceedings on the platform like youtube (which is much vulnerable to the general public) with the inappropriate title, it shows the misuse of the live stream and can influence the perspective of the public at large. The “OBITER DICTA” which refers to the mere saying of the court can be misinterpreted as the message which a justice wants to convey in their whole saying can’t be conveyed in a spliced part of their opinion. This can lead to the fake news and propaganda dominating various social media platforms and influencing the public opinion at large.
Overall, this will have an undesirable effect of sanitising the oral proceedings and preventing genuine courtroom engagement.
After observing the scenario of pros and cons, the thing that matters is the wayforward. The whole situation can be balanced by introducing some steps that include technology and law in it. Firstly, there must be a technology by which the videos of proceedings can be prevented from being spliced into small parts as it will reflect the way in which the viewer consumes the information. Secondly, the law comes into view and it is necessary to introduce a set of rules and regulations so that the real message can be conveyed. Also, there must be strict punishment for the unauthorised reproduction of videos of live streams.
This article is written by Mayank Saraswat of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University.