The E-Committee of the Supreme Court has published the Draft Rules on Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings in a bid to invite inputs and suggestions from stakeholders on or before 30th June, 2021.
The Rules have been framed with the object to "imbue greater transparency, inclusivity and foster access to justice" and will be applicable to High Courts, courts and tribunals over which the High Courts have supervisory jurisdiction.
A few key features of the Rules, which come nearly three years after the Supreme Court approved the concept in live-streaming in the Swapnil Tripathi case, are as follows:
Matters Excluded from Live-Streaming
1. Rule 5.2 enunciates a list of matters that are to be excluded from live-streaming. These include:
i. Matrimonial matters, including transfer petitions arising thereunder.
ii. Cases concerning sexual offences, including proceedings instituted under Section 376, Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).
iii. Cases concerning gender-based violence against women.
iv. Matters registered under or involving the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) and under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
v. In-camera proceedings as defined under Section 327 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) or Section 153 B of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC).
vi. Matters where the Bench is of the view, for reasons to be recorded in writing that publication would be antithetical to the administration of justice.
vii. Cases, which in the opinion of the Bench, may provoke enmity amongst communities likely to result in a breach of law and order.
viii. Recording of evidence, including cross-examination.
ix. Privileged communications between the parties and their advocates; cases where a claim of privilege is accepted by the Court; and non-public discussions between advocates.
x. Any other matter in which a specific direction is issued by the Bench or the Chief Justice.
2. As per Rule 5.3, live streaming in certain cases may be restricted to final arguments.
3. Rule 5.4 states that the Court Master/Reader has to duly inform the parties, before the commencement of proceedings, that the proceedings are being live-streamed, and that objections, if any, should be articulated at that juncture to the concerned Bench.
4. Under Rules 5.5 and 5.6, objections to live-streaming may be raised either at the institution of the case or at any later stage by filing of forms prescribed in Schedules I or II, depending on the stage of hearing. The final decision resides in the Bench and the decision must be guided by the principle of an open and transparent judicial process.
5. For cases that are not live-streamed, Rule 5.7 states that the recording shall be maintained for usage by the Court and the Appellate Court(s), subject to certain conditions. However, Rule 5.9 states that audio-video recording or recording of the proceedings by any other means, beyond the mandate of the present Rules is prohibited.
RELAY OF PROCEEDINGS AND RECORDINGS
Personal information is to be deleted or muted during live-streaming as per Rule 8.1.
Rule 8.3 states that there shall be a delay of 10 minutes in streaming, which may be changed as per directions of the Court, and Rule 8.4 specifies that the content of the Recording will be vetted and shall be posted, usually within three days of the conclusion of the proceedings.
MANNER OF RECORDING OF PROCEEDINGS
While Rule 6.2 states that cameras shall not audio-video record the media persons and visitors present during the proceedings, Rule 6.3 lists out what shall not be live-streamed or saved in the archival data or transcribed.
This includes, inter alia, discussions between/amongst Judges on the Bench; instructions given by the Judge to the administrative staff; notes taken down by the Judge during proceedings; communication between advocate and client, inter-se the advocates, and communications which is not a submission exchanged between the advocate and the Court. As per Rule 6.4, if any of these instances occur, the monitor will display the message "Live-streaming paused as per applicable Rules".
Rule 6.5 states that if a Judge is desirous of opting out of live-streaming while dictating the order/oral judgement, live-streaming will be paused during that period. Similarly, when the Bench rises for recess or otherwise, a message will be displayed indicating the same.HARDWARE – PLACEMENT AND CONTROL