In an unprecedented order by the apex judiciary,the Supreme Court of India has directed that CCTV cameras may be installed inside the courts and at such important locations of the court complexes, at least in two districts in every State/Union Territory. The Court directed that the installation of cameras may be completed in three months.
In what may be a perceived as a small step towards changing the status quo and re-igniting the debate on whether public should be given access to judicial proceedings as a positive measure towards dispelling opacity, the two-judge bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit delivered the order after the Centre indicated it was in favour of CCTVs in courtrooms for increased transparency.
The bench passed the significant order after taking in views of the Centre represented by additional solicitor general Maninder Singh and senior advocate Venkataramani who sought their installation.
A petition filed by one Pradyuman Bisht seeking a direction for audio-video recording of the proceedings of the trial courts to ensure fair trial.
When the matter was heard on February 2 this year, the Court had noted that it will limit itself to the issue of whether CCTV cameras (without audio recording) can be installed in courts or at some other locations in the court premises with the monitor being in the Chamber of District and Sessions Judge.
Notably, the recordings from these videos or feeds will not be open for public access under the Right to Information Act. “We make it clear that the recorded footage of the CCTv cameras will not be available under the RTI and will not be supplied to anyone without the permission of the concerned High Courts,” the Supreme Court directed.
The videos will only be released to the public under the express directives of the respective High Courts.
The bench entrusted the high court concerned with overseeing installation of cameras and their working while District and Sessions Judges, who is the administrative head of courts in a particular district, have been asked to monitor the courtroom proceedings in his or her chambers.
Sources further reports that the Supreme Court order comes after several rounds of discussions between the executive and the judiciary. According to the report, since August 2013, union law ministers have written three times to respective chief justices of India, urging the court to consider allowing video and audio recordings of judicial proceedings.
The Supreme Court also indicated that it would take the matter forward after examining how its current directive to High Courts gets implemented.