A public interest litigation has been filed before the Gujarat High Court, seeking open-public access to courts by permitting live streaming of virtual court hearings.
The petition has been filed by a third year law student at Nirma University, Pruthvirajsinh Zala, stating that the present system of virtual hearings, whereby the video link to proceedings is shared only with the Advocates concerned, is "inaccessible" to public at large including litigants, media personnel and law students etc.
Even in normal parlance, the Petitioner states, physical hearings ought to be made more accessible by setting up live-streaming mechanism, in terms of Section 327 of CrPC and Section 153-B of CPC, that relate to open trials and access to the public during hearing of cases before the Court.
"The right of access to justice flows from Article 21 of the Constitution. The concept of justice at the doorstep, would be meaningful only if the public gets access to the proceedings as it would unfold before the Courts and in particular, opportunity to witness live proceedings in respect of matters having an impact on the public at large or on section of people," the plea states.
The submission is made in light of various precedents including Swapnil Tripathi v. Supreme Court of India, (2018) 10 SCC 639, whereby remarking that "Sunlight is the best disinfectant", the Top Court had permitted live streaming of court hearings. It was held as under:
"By providing "virtual" access of live court proceedings to one and all, it will effectuate the right of access to justice or right to open justice and public trial, right to know the developments of law and including the right of justice at the doorstep of the litigants. Open justice, after all, can be more than just a physical access to the courtroom rather, it is doable even "virtually" in the form of live streaming of court proceedings and have the same effect."
Significantly, the High Court of Kerala is the only court in India which has successfully started live-streaming of court hearings through the Zoom App.
Following the lead, a single Bench of the Bombay High Court had also held open for-public video-conferencing hearing on 9th April 2020.
The Calcutta High Court has also agreed to live stream the proceedings of a case seeking entry of children born to Parsi women and non-Parsi men into a fire temple, a Zoroastrian place of worship, in the city. However, the date for the final hearing has not yet been fixed.
The Petitioner has prayed the Gujarat High Court to frame apposite guidelines or rules to administer live streaming of court proceedings.