The Supreme Court was informed by the Central government that various states have installed CCTV cameras in courtrooms and live audio and video recordings of judicial proceedings have started. A division bench of Justice Adarsh Goel and Justice U.U. Lalit asked the government to explore the possibility of connecting the live recordings with the National Judicial Data Grid.
As Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand informed the court that installation of CCTV cameras in 15 high courts and 9 tribunals have been initiated, the bench lauded the Law and Justice Ministry saying it is doing “commendable” job. Going through the status report filed by the Central government on the issue, the bench said that report of Punjab and Haryana High Court shows that it has made a comprehensive plan of action to install CCTV cameras in all courts in four phases.
It suggested the government to put a copy of Punjab and Haryana High Court report on the website of the Law and Justice Ministry to facilitate coordination with all the high courts and tribunals. The court, posting the case, which has sought audio and video recording of court proceedings in order to bring transparency, for December 13, also asked the Central government to file status report in the case on progress.
The Supreme Court on November 21 had said there is no need for privacy in courtrooms, favouring installation of CCTV cameras and audio recording of its proceedings, as it will be in larger public interest and security. The Central government though its affidavit submitted that Sikkim has installed CCTV cameras in all trial courts, Tamil Nadu in trial courts of five districts, Chhattisgarh in trial courts of three districts, and Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab and Haryana in two districts each.
Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Manipur, Bihar, Rajasthan have initiated the process and were in communication with respective high courts and Ministry of Information Technology, stated the affidavit.
The court, however, raised concern over Bihar going slow in the process as it had said that tender process was in progress in all the 61 districts of the state. The top court had initially directed to install CCTV cameras in two districts in every state and Union Territory, but by its August 14 order, it said: “With the experience now gained, it is desirable that CCTV cameras are installed in all subordinate courts in such phased manner as may be considered appropriate by the high courts.”
The court, by its March 28 order, had said that the RTI provisions would not apply to the camera recordings and the footage would not be given for “any purpose other than the purpose for which the high court considers it appropriate”.
By its August 14 order, the court had directed the Information Technology Ministry in consultation with e-Committee of the top court to “lay down technical specifications and other modalities, including price range and sources of supply for installation of CCTV cameras in courts”.