Supreme Court Judgment- Swapnil Tripathi v. Supreme Court of India Writ Petition (Civil) No 1232 of 2017
This is a landmark case decided on September 27, 2018 where the Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the plea of a fourth year law student to allow live streaming of court proceedings in the interest of public specifically law students and interns. However, it imposed certain guidelines that need to be followed in these cases.
Brief facts of this case are as follows:
- There were some petitions brought up before the Supreme Court to allow video recording or live streaming of the court proceedings in public interest.
- There were basically three such petitions, one in the form of PIL filed by a senior advocate Indira Jaising who suggested that the court proceedings shall be allowed to be video recorded and emphasised on the safeguards that needed to be put on such recordings from being misused and illegally broadcasted.
- Another petition was filed by an NGO named Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change which did not demand broadcasting of court proceedings on TV or any other specific channel but demanded that it shall be video recorded and shall be uploaded on the official website.
- Thereafter, a fourth year law student of five years integrated law course, Swapnil Tripathi invoked the writ jurisdiction of Supreme Court through Art. 32 of Indian Constitution to demand live streaming of court proceedings in the interest of public and particularly in the interest of law students and interns.
- The Hon’ble court entertained all these three petitions to discuss and decide on this matter.
- Swapnil Tripathi who is the first petitioner in this case, while his internship under advocate Rishabh Sancheti had worked on various matters of Constitutional importance that had to be decided by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
- He was aggrieved by the fact that interns were not allowed in the court premises on miscellaneous days i.e. Monday and Friday when public interest litigations were listed to be heard by the court.
- Apart from miscellaneous days it was also difficult for interns to enter the courtrooms and hear the proceedings of the court on certain days when important cases were listed to be heard and decided as the courtrooms in those days were already overcrowded.
- Aggrieved by this, he discussed this issue with his senior who suggested him to approach the court for a solution if he so strongly believed that it was his right to hear those important proceedings and that he should not be denied of it.
- This idea of approaching the court stayed in the back of his mind and thereafter he along with four other students drafted a petition to and approached the court claiming that it was their right under Art. 14 of the Constitution that needs to be protected and therefore they should not be denied from attending the court proceedings in some very important cases.
- They came up with certain guidelines that the court may order to be followed while live streaming of the court proceedings so as to avoid any unrequired political and social drama in certain exceptional cases.
- The petitioner’s primary contention was that live streaming would promote open justice and would guarantee equal access of justice. It would also facilitate people to know the reality of case while removing the necessity to leave their work so as to attend the court proceedings. It would thereby increase productivity of people.
- The court allowed the petition stating that live streaming of court proceedings was the need of the hour.
The issues involved in this case were
- Whether live streaming of court proceedings shall be introduced in all courts to Supreme Court as well as in all other courts in the country.
- If live streaming is so allowed what shall be the circumstance under which it shall be done.
Judgment and Decision[iii]
Khanwilkar J. while delivering the majority judgement on behalf of himself and CJI Deepak Misra held as follows:
- While discussing on the contention of petitioner regarding the right to access of justice the court referred Mirajkar case where right to freedom of expression of journalists was extended to their right to attend the proceedings of court.
- It was held in that case that the journalists shall be allowed to attend the court proceedings in order to carry on their profession of journalism in an effective and faithful manner and that this right is guaranteed to them by the provision of Art. 19 of Indian Constitution.
- The court further examined that in that case proceedings in an open court were allowed keeping exception of certain cases where proceedings had to be continued in camera and in closed compounds.
- Therefore it held that while allowing the live streaming of court proceedings it was first necessary to have a proper and balanced regulatory framework to put this concept into action.
- It was further analysed that right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Art. 21 shall be meaningful only if public at large get an access to court proceedings and that they know the reality of judgements been passed by courts and cannot thereby plead ignorance of law.
- The court further stated that even though the courts are supposed to be open for all but use of technology to virtually increase the boundaries of court room beyond the four walls is a suitable solution to facilitate access of justice to every individual. It stated that live streaming of court proceeding is the need of the hour.
- However, it also realised that these rights of people shall be balanced with right to privacy of certain individuals and therefore it referred to the guidelines provided by Attorney General to be considered while allowing live streaming.
- Hence it initially allowed streaming of cases of constitutional and national importance and stated that the court whose proceedings are being broadcasted shall first give prior written permission in this regard.
- The court thereby decided the case in favour of petitioners but provided certain guidelines that need to be followed along with.