SENIOR advocate Indira Jaising has written to the Chief Justice of India and his companion judges requesting the Supreme Court to begin live streaming of proceedings of matters of public and constitutional importance, as also to keep a permanent record of the arguments by counsel on all sides along with the proceedings of the court.
Jaising made these recommendations in an email addressed to the Supreme Court’s official email address on the evening of September 14.
In the letter, Jaising notes that “issues of great national importance are being discussed, debated, and decided upon in the Supreme Court of India”, and refers to the on-going matters related to the validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment that introduced reservation for economically weaker sections of citizens, and of Section 6A of the Citizenship Act, 1955. She also refers to matters pertaining to the sub-categorisation within Scheduled Castes for reservation, and the extension of reservations to Christians and Muslims as cases in which the arguments revolve around issues of social and political justice.
She also refers to the upcoming case regarding the validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, to be heard by a Constitution bench of the court, in which the primary arguments will deal with an understanding of secularism in the Indian Constitution “and in that sense the idea of India itself”, as well as pending challenges to the legal provisions of restitution of conjugal rights, and the exemption of marital rape from the purview of criminal law.
Jaising states that all these cases pertain to discrimination on the grounds of caste, sex or religion, and involve the interpretation of the Constitution regarding significant issues such as equality and secularism, due to which the outcomes in these matters are of interest to every single India citizen.
Being aware of the arguments in court in these cases and the exchange between counsel and judges forms part of the right to be well-informed, to be educated by the process, and to contribute if one has anything significant to say, the latter states; particularly, lawyers, students and the press would be deeply interested in the intricacies of the arguments, and would want to report and revisit them.
For these reasons, Jaising recalls that she had filed a petition at the Supreme Court in 2018 requesting the declaration of live streaming as part of the right to freedom of information and the right of access to justice for every citizen. The Attorney-General for India had appeared and supported Jaising’s propositions, and submitted guidelines for live-streaming of certain cases to the court. The combined guidelines found place in the judgment delivered by the court in response to the petition in September 2018.
Since that judgment, Jaising notes that she had made repeated requests to the Supreme Court for the commencement of live streaming of cases of constitutional and national importance having an impact on the public at large, but to no avail.
Jaising emphasizes that in the era of fake news, there is an urgent need for real time information, and that there is no substitute for first-hand knowledge. She points out that the Supreme Court is a court of record as per Article 129 of the Constitution, which is why the court must stream its proceedings on its own website as well as on a channel of its own on YouTube.
She mentions that the live streaming of the ceremonial proceedings of the court on the day of retirement of the previous Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana last month showed that there is adequate infrastructure and precedent for live streaming in the court.
Jaising concludes by reiterating her request to “immediately commence live streaming as a part of the fundamental right of every citizen to freedom of information namely the right to receive information as also the right of access to justice.”
Click here to read the letter.