The SupremeCourt has ordered all High Courts to ensurethat some of the courts under its jurisdiction must have 24-hour CCTV surveillance of all proceedings. The move is being seen as a step forward to ensuring that the court premises are free of disturbances as well as documenting the judicial process. The decision comes after several district court premises have witnessed disturbances caused by several parties including undertrials.
A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court asked that the high court order some of its district courts install CCTV surveillance. Initially, only video recording facilities will be installed in at least two districts in each of the states and union territories. A time frame of three months has been set by the apex court. However, audio recording facilities will not be provided.
This is not the first time that CCTV surveillance has been ordered. There have been instances of high courts ordering district courts to install these surveillance facilities in light of several criminals having caused considerable trouble in district courts. In the ruling, the two-judge bench stated,”We direct that at least in two districts in every state/union territory (with the exception of small states/union territories where it may be considered to be difficult to do so by the concerned high courts) CCTV cameras (without audio recording) may be installed inside the courts and at such important locations of the court complexes as may be considered appropriate.”
No RTI Enquiries
The lack of any audio recording makes the footage ineligible for use under the existing RTI provisions. In fact, the footage will not be made available to the general public under the Right To Information act either. The high court may allow the footage to be released to the public should it so desire. A report by The Indian Express also stated that the bench, presided by Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit, was in favour of CCTVs for “increased transparency” and to maintain an electronic record of court cases.
The same report also stated that the Supreme Court order came after the executive and the judiciary consulted on the matter for several months. Since August 2013, several union law ministers have written to the chief justices of India to install CCTV surveillance of court proceedings. That idea is now finally law.