Suggesting the obvious

>>Suggesting the obvious

Suggesting the obvious

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
ORDINARY ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

WP(C) NO. 861/2018
IN THE MATTER BETWEEN
Mathews J. Nedumpara
And Others
PETITIONERS

Versus

The Supreme Court of India and Others RESPONDENTS

TO

THE HON’BLE CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA AND HIS COMPANION JUDGES OF THEHON’BLE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

HUMBLE SUGGESTIONS BY THE PETITIONERS ABOVENAMED

MOST RESPECTFULLY SHEWETH:

The Audio-Video Recording of Judicial Proceedings is a measure which is very safe and easy to implement, as the Petitioners had directly witnessed the same in a Contempt of Court Proceedings at the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court, as Counsels, where it was implemented on mere application of the Contemnor without calling for any suggestions. Hence, there is nothing significant which needs to be suggested by the Petitioners. All that is required is a declaration at the hands of this court that the right to life and the freedom of speech takes within its ambit Audio and Video Recording of the Proceedings of this Court, nay, all the Courts and Tribunals in this Country and access thereof and a consequential direction to set up cameras; nothing more nothing less. Nevertheless, since this Honble Court was pleased to call for our suggestions, we are duty bound to state a few ideas:

The proceedings of the Courts, in hearing and deciding the disputes between the Parties before it, have to be recorded in the most truest, complete and durable manner. Our judiciary has evolved a long way, from the tablets of limestone to paper and pen, to the era of typewriters and computers, in recording of the court proceedings and preserving these records. And today, we have a splendid medium before us, Video Recording, which is the most truest, complete, durable, portable, and easily reproducible, all, at an astonishingly cost effective and minimal expenditure! This paper-free concept, in addition to the above, is also nature friendly and can save trees as well as time and labour. But, despite having everything ready in our hands, we are facing a big hurdle: the hurdle of hesitation to implement! These suggestions are thus, only aimed at eliminating this hurdle.

When a prayer was made by the instant Petitioners for Audio and Video Recording of Judicial Proceedings by filing Writ Petitions before the Hon’ble Bombay High Court as well as this Hon’ble Court, it was found that the Bombay High Court dismissed our Petition, so also the Petition of another person. Similarly, with utmost respect, to our surprise, this Honble Court too, contrary to our expectations, did not readily accept our contentions which were nothing but measures to modernize and strengthen our system. In our humble opinion, the hesitation to record the Judicial proceedings into audio and video is wholly unfounded. Once we overcome this hesitation, what we achieve is justice of the most pristine quality. And this is the whole idea of the rule of law, a very fundamental right of all, to whom the Constitution of India applies.

Mrs. Indira Jaisingh opined that only matters of constitutional importance be aired for public broadcast. This suggestion, though sounds good, does not touch the issue which is sought to be addressed by the instant Petitioners, nay, it is counterproductive. Our demand for Audio and Video Recording is not for the sole purpose of relay, airing or broadcasting. What we are begging for is a record of the true accounts that transact in the decision of a dispute between two parties. Often, the common man, who files an SLP with great hopes, is rendered crestfallen when he reads a monosyllabic order, “Dismissed”; a nonspeaking order. In such a scenario, a video recording of his hearing is of a great respite, both, for the lawyer as well as the litigant who can see that his lawyer did the best he could, and that the court has delivered its best. That way alone can a citizen see justice being done.

Law dominates everything in the universe, nay, the universe itself. The BS-IV mandates the headlights of motor-vehicles to illuminate even during the day time, to be at par with the international standards, to match the adaptability of human eyes to modern environs. Why then only the judiciary has to lag behind? Should the law not dominate? There are rising incidents of Courts not recording the plea of the parties inspite of repeated requests to do so; oral orders not matching with the typed ones, granting of status quo not being reproduced in the prints which are not signed, in some courts, even after weeks. These incidents may or may not be attributed to negligence or delinquency; these may take place, as, after all, a judge is a human being in flesh and blood, and is susceptible to errors. We are surely not at the end of our evolution to modernization. Like all other fields, the judiciary has to grow, more so, as it dominates all other fields, being the greatest custodian of civil rights and justice.

Another most important reason that calls for video recording of Court proceedings is the financial limitation of the Common man to travel for days from the nooks and corners of the villages to cities that house the High Courts and the Supreme Court of India. S/he has to travel, stay and pay enormously in addition to the risks one undertakes while leaving the home to a new place, only to often find that the case is adjourned. Add to that the problem of overcrowding in the court rooms which at times tend to smother justice. This one entire chapter of problems could be most efficiently solved by simply recording and relaying live the Court proceedings. Such relays should be accessible by the world over, not only by the litigants, so that everyone knows how erudite a nation we are! Our law students as well as other educated, even uneducated, citizens will get to learn in a much better manner, social discipline, propriety and public conduct, from an uncontaminated source.

There is no need whatsoever for framing any guidelines to prohibit or restrict matters of national security, intimate and personal causes and cases involving social taboos etc., because such cases are never heard in the open court and the question of it being telecast, does not arise at all. Mrs. Jaising has been time and again emphasizing this aspect, for which no emphasis is required, for, an in-camera hearing is always kept out of the Public view. The humble suggestion of the Petitioners is that no guidelines at all are required. The proceedings of the Parliament and the Courts and Tribunals all over the world are audio and video recorded and telecasted. It is open to be accessed by the public at large, the press, litigants, lawyers from the registry / Websites of the Courts. The television channels will decide what is worthy to be televised as is the case with the Courts and Tribunals in the rest of the World; so too of the Parliaments in India and rest of the World. Ideally speaking, the Hon’ble Judges shouldn’t have any role whatsoever in the recording and telecast of the court proceedings. How to record and preserve is the job of a technician; of course, appointed by the Courts and under its supervision and discipline. The apprehension of Mrs. Jaysing is wholly meritless because the cases involving sexual violence of women and children, so too, of intimate personal relations, national security are never conducted in the open court. That is the reality today. That ought to be the reality tomorrow. Therefore the question of such objectionable materials being allowed to be telecasted would ever arise. That is forbidden to the public at large; the public interest demands so. The only possible guideline is to restrict the hearing conducted in camera from being allowed to be telecasted and where it is video recorded, it should remain absolutely in safe custody, with access to none.

To repeat, in so far as the proceedings of this court are concerned, no distinction shall be made between constitutional matters or matters of larger public interest or cases of the children of the lesser Gods. All should be video recorded and preserved and be made available to the parties to the cause, the press, third parties, the world at large. What is to be telecast or not is not in the province of the court to decide. That belongs to the editor of the news channel. If guidelines were to be framed, in matters other than in camera proceedings, prohibiting or restricting the telecast in one way or other, on the nature of the case, its content, that will amount to violation of the freedom of speech and expression, so too the very right to life.

Therefore, suggestions of Mrs. Jaising to relay live only cases of “great importance” and “Constitutional” issues are absolutely alien, nay inimical to the very idea of transparency, she seeks to promote.

The Video Recording of Court proceedings is a fool proof device to preserve the trust of “We the People” in the Judiciary. There is a popular concept called “face value”, which is well known to practitioners, legal academicians, law students, and the litigant public with as little as a days exposure in the courts. This “face value” is an antithesis to justice. Our forefathers knew this well, as they identified this menace the very moment the institution of Judiciary was established. They countered this menace by introducing the wearing of wigs for concealing the identity of the lawyers and judges. But growing faith of the people did away the wigs. However, today the menace of “face value” looms over an average litigant and an ordinary lawyer alike as a threat to justice. Video Recording of court proceedings will instill faith in the litigants that it is not the face, but the case which is valued.

In the age of High Definition wireless audio video technology, one need not struggle much to set up a sound and motion capturing and recording facility in the Court rooms. One stroke of pen at your Lordships gracious hands, can upgrade and enrich the entire system.

Retrieval of electronic records are much faster and easier as compared to paper records which need a chain of procedures to be followed until the litigant or the appellate court gets a certified copy in hand. For instance, Bail granted will be implemented at lightning speed, unlike the present situation, where, after the orders are signed, more days are spent in speaking to the minutes.

The very concept of court/judicial proceedings being in open court, no law is violated when these proceedings are viewed through electronic eyes with electronic memory as compared to natural eyes with doubtful memory, except in case of proceedings‘ in camera’.

No special law needs to be drafted and passed to govern the video recording of court proceedings. The Information Technology Act R/W the Indian Penal Code is enough. As artificial intelligence is not susceptible to vices, favours and fears, the technology itself can catch a culprit with proof in black and white.

Last, not the least, Video Recording of Court proceedings will enhance the quality of advocacy, thereby promoting a healthier Bar, as all lawyers shall come prepared for their cases and display the best of talents and talent alone shall be considered, not only in the decision of the case, but also in their elevation to the Bench, which also is one of the core agendas of NLC.

MATHEWS J. NEDUMPARA
A.C. PHILIP &
AMRITPAL SINGH KHALSA
Parties in Person

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