In Swapnil Tripathi Vs. Supreme Court of India, the apex court had allowed the live-streaming of court proceedings connected with matters pertaining to constitutional issues and also issues involving national importance. This was considered a step towards bringing transparency, as the court had said the openness was like “sunlight” which is the “best disinfectant”.
In this matter, senior advocate Indira Jaising had moved an application before the apex court to frame rules regarding the live streaming of national and constitutionally important cases. A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra has declined to pass any order on a plea for live streaming of important national and constitutional cases, and instead placed it before the Chief Justice on the administrative side.
The Bench rejected the plea by saying that “there cannot be any mandamus from the judicial side of the Court. The decision has to come from the administrative side alone, there cannot be a judicial command”.
The court’s judgment came on a plea by a law student, Swapnil Tripathi, and others, saying live streaming of the proceedings will allow people to access first-hand information. It will reduce dependence on second-hand narrative, serve educational purposes, and enhance the Rule of Law and legal understanding.
The plea had sought the initiation of a pilot project where a specific category of cases, constitutional and national importance, argued for final hearing before the Constitution Bench, would be live-streamed.
Advocate Jaising insisted someone must act on the outcome of judgment which was delivered in 2018, and also contended before the court she has been effectively pursuing this, but her efforts have not borne fruition.
Justice Mishra said that “the judgment cannot be the last word, it can only be suggestive. The judgment cannot be binding. The compulsion to frame guidelines is not the final word”.
Justice Mishra said that ‘the administrative side cannot be compelled to frame rules by way of a judicial order’. The court noted that what was accepted by the court in 2018 was a pilot project. “Let’s see if the pilot project works..but not like this. You can’t compel us to enforce anything.”
Advocate Jaising argued it has been over a year to this judgment, which ruled that appropriate guidelines be framed. ” I have been writing to the Secretary-General to understand what is the progress…..live streaming is access to justice. It is for people not present in the court to observe cases of national importance”.
Attorney General KK Venugopal told the bench that the Secretary-General has started the process of installing infrastructure for live streaming.
Justice Mishra said the Chief Justice of India, as the administrative head of the Supreme Court, had to take the final call on live-streaming of proceedings and the Bench cannot “compel” him.
“Can we issue a command to Parliament to do this or that? Its effect will be zero”, Justice Mishra compared the situation.
Justice Mishra repeated, “We cannot pass any mandamus nor can we compel [SC administrative side for live-streaming of important court proceedings]”.
To this, Ms. Jaising said, “very well, I will pursue the matter with the Chief Justice”.
Now the application, filed by Jaising, has now been listed before the administrative roster of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.