The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to the Centre’s request to install CCTV cameras in courtrooms, but without audio recording. After years of hesitance, the bench of Justices A Goel and UU Lalit passed the order after considering the views of the government, which had been pushing for CCTV cameras in courtrooms for enhanced transparency, The Telegraph reported.
To begin with, the top court has directed all 24 high courts in the country to oversee the installation of CCTV cameras – without audio recording – in at least two districts in each state and Union Territory. Only small states and Union Territories where the high court felt installing cameras was not plausible currently will be exempt from the order.
The direction comes with a notable caveat – the recording will not be available to the public under the Right to Information Act. “We make it clear that the footage of the CCTV cameras will not be available under the RTI Act and will not be supplied to anyone without permission of the concerned high court,” the bench asserted, according to The Indian Express.
The direction comes after numerous discussions between the Centre and top court on the matter. The Law Ministry had been urging the apex judiciary to consider recording court proceedings for better transparency and case management since August 2013. However, the Supreme Court believed “wider consultation” was needed before they made a final call. It had also dismissed a number of petitions calling for audio-video recording of courtroom proceedings.
The high courts have been asked to ensure that the cameras are set up within three months, a month after which “the report of such experiment” will have to be submited. The footage will remain in the high courts’ custody.
The court passed the judgement while hearing an individuals petition seeking audio-video recording of the trial proceedings of his marriage dispute. The petitioner had said he was willing to pay to install the necessary CCTV cameras to ensure a fair trial.