There is of course room for the proverbial slip between cup and lip, yet reason for excitement ~ for want of a more appropriate word ~ over the prospects of “live streaming” of important cases in the Supreme Court. The favourable consensus apparent in the court on Monday equated with a technological leapfrog: in happy contrast with the reluctance of the judiciary to use even a public address system in the courtroom.
The guidelines will hopefully be sketched at a subsequent hearing, after which the mechanics will be finalised and “streamed” proceedings can commence, possibly in just a couple of courts initially. Particularly welcome is the proposal for a dedicated television channel on the pattern of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, for at present the aura around the apex court tends to cause the public to be unaware of all that court does to preserve some of the cherished features of the democracy.
The channel might actually dispel many a misconception created by the world of movies ~ it would be unfair to single out Bollywood ~ for there is no more-effective mass-educator than the small-screen, despite its several drawbacks. But that might actually be a case of allowing the imagination to run wild, let us wait for a system to evolve, there could be roadblocks raised by conservative sections of the legal community.
In deeming live-streaming of proceedings a logical outcome of the “open court” system the apex court did well to list potential benefits ~ primarily to enlighten litigants on the progress of the case, and occasionally to satisfy them that their lawyers were putting in their desired level of effort. It might also expose counsel who sought frequent adjournments, as well as let juniors know how Senior Counsel conducted their affairs.
One visible fall-out would be less-crowded courtrooms, and litigants from other cities might no longer be required to travel to the Capital for first-hand knowledge of the way their cases were being handled. The need of the hour is how their Lordships projected a determination to move with the times. The media too would be happy: facilities for reporters in courtrooms are minimal, and there is an obsolete, cumbersome process for accreditation.
While welcoming the lifting of the veil, it would also be necessary to point to potential negatives. The parliamentary experience points to how some members, in this case lawyers, develop a skill that attracts the camera but does not always improve the quality of their presentation.
What is popularly called “court-room drama” could become a daily occurrence ~ at least in initial phases, until the novelty wears off. Their Lordships will have to be stern against attempts to play to the galleries, and caution counsel against overuse of strong language. It is difficult not to conjure up images of how ~ with all due respect to his professional brilliance ~ Ram Jethmalani would have relished the opportunity…