In a first, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered video recording of court hearings in at least two districts of every state and union territory, a direction that will usher in transparency in judicial proceedings.
A bench of justice AK Goel and justice UU Lalit, however, said there shall be no audio recording of the arguments. The footage of the proceedings shall be kept in the custody of the High Court concerned. The clippings can be released only after the HC accords its permission, the court said.
SC’s order is a departure from its earlier stance wherein it rejected several PILs seeking video recording of court proceedings. Even on the administrative side the full court – panel comprising all the judges of SC – had failed to take a concrete decision despite the Centre’s recommendation to introduce audio-video recording of judicial hearings.
The bench was hearing a matrimonial case where the husband petitioned the top court seeking a direction for “audio-video recording of proceedings by the trial court to ensure fair trial to the petitioner.”
On the last hearing the court had appointed a two-member committee of senior advocates – additional solicitor general Maninder Singh and R Venkataramani, asking them for their view on the feasibility of having CCTVs inside courtrooms.
They were told to visit a Gurgaon district court where CCTV was installed in 2010. Their reports were taken note of before the court gave its directions.
During his visit Singh found that the CCTV became defunct after a Punjab and Haryana high court order. On his interaction with the judges and police officers there, Singh was told that they were not averse to the recording of court proceedings. However, the same required additional manpower so that records are maintained to facilitate applications under RTI.
Police officials had expressed apprehension that the recordings may be telecast live, causing law and order problems in the area.
An affidavit filed by the Union law ministry supported installation of CCTVs and said recording of proceedings was necessary to bring transparency.