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'Televising court proceedings will bring transparency in judicial system'

india Updated: Nov 05, 2014 01:55 IST
Avantika Mehta
Avantika Mehta
Hindustan Times
Oscar Pistorius

The whole world watched the live trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. However, such live broadcasting of court proceedings is not allowed in India.

But a bar body filed a contempt plea in the Supreme Court against a Tamil news channel, which surreptitiously captured and aired senior advocate Fali Nariman's arguments during AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa's bail hearing last month.

Many think televising court proceedings can lead to sensationalism and erode public confidence in courts.

However, most Indians have little or no direct contact with the justice system and they depend on media for news emanating from courts.

Telecasting trials could go a long way in eliminating this disconnect and improve the common man's understanding of courts beyond news reports and judgments. The law ministry's advisory council had in 2013 recommended video recording of court proceedings as part of reforms in the legal system.

"If Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha proceedings can be telecast live, why not court proceedings?" asks Aaj Tak managing editor Supriya Prasad.

"Court proceedings are telecast live in many countries. If we are not sure about its fallout, we can start by the telecast of recorded court proceedings. After all it will ensure greater transparency," Prasad insists.

NDTV India executive editor Ravish Kumar says, "It will enhance the credibility of the judicial system. Courts already use video conferencing in their proceedings. Why can't people watch court proceedings on their TV sets? We must give it a try. Live court proceedings may bring some pressure on judges but we all know they decide the cases on the basis of evidence and law and nothing else."

Dario Milo, a South African lawyer who campaigned for live telecast of court proceedings in his country, says, "It places judges under intense scrutiny. But that's how it should be in a democracy. It means judges are truly accountable not only for their judgments but also how they dispense justice."

Litigants too favour it. "Camera does not tell a lie. If it shows that justice is manifestly not being done, isn't that a fault in the system?" a litigant asked requesting anonymity.

However, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves opines that telecast may impede the "candour with which judges address lawyers and litigants."

Studies in the US show there is almost no adverse effect of telecasting court proceedings. As far back as September 1990, a report by The Judicial Conference of the United States categorically stated there was no negative effect of televising trials in the six federal district courts and two circuit courts it studied.

Former Delhi high court judge RS Sodhi disagrees. "Media is there in courts anyway. As long as it reports on proceedings as they happen and doesn't colour them with personal bias, I think it would be a positive move," justice Sodhi says.