We would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the e-committee of the Hon’ble Supreme Court for the issuance of the Model Rules and would like to express our strong support for its implementation. We are certain that these rules shall prove to be a crucial step towards strengthening the principles of transparency and accountability and will help to bring in much greater accessibility towards the judiciary for the general public.
While the issuance of these rules is apt evidence of the commitment of the Indian judiciary towards furthering the principles of ‘Open Justice’ there is scope to make some of the provisions more focussed and clarify ambiguous ones to ensure their precise and effective implementation. To this end, the objective of these recommendations is to assist the hon’ble committee towards attaining a sustainable balance between privacy and public interest and to make a small contribution towards helping them in fulfilling their commitment to work towards bringing greater fairness and transparency in the judiciary.
Here is a summary of our top-line recommendations:
Rule 5.3: The model law should underline the principle for such restriction, if any and prescribe the criterion to decide in which cases should Live Streaming be limited to only the Final Arguments.
Rule 5.6: To carve out qualifiers to the finality of the decision of the bench on whether to Live Stream the proceeding or not on the basis of principles of “autonomy” , “dignity” and “informed consent” of parties to the proceeding.
Rule 5.8: The Model laws should prescribe the use of state of art technology to ensure the anonymity of the victims and witnesses.
Rule 5.9: To substitute this rule with a notwithstanding clause “Notwithstanding anything contained in these rules, the same shall not in any manner restrict or prohibit the right of any person to fair and accurate reporting of Court proceedings as provided under article 19 of the Constitution.”
Rule 7.4: Only high-end encryption protocols should be used to secure the data as any leakage would have a humongous impact on the right to life and that of privacy of the citizens.
Rule 10: The model law should mandate transcription unless ordered by Court for reasons explained in writing.
Rule 5.2: Whenever the Court exercises its discretionary power to not Live Stream the proceedings the reasons thereof should be reduced to writing in the interest of transparency and accountability and to avoid any abuse of power.
Rule 9.2(1): Remove the ownership claim of ‘the court’s exclusive copyright in the Recordings and Archival Data’.
In the absence of a long-awaited data protection law, the privacy of the parties, victims and witnesses is the paramount concern. To this end, a technical committee should prescribe the standards for securing the archival data with high-end encryption and for anonymizing the identity of the victims and witnesses (as some techniques for pixilation are reversible).
Enumerating the exact reasoning behind prescribing the mandate of a 10-minute gap and providing clear guidelines regarding the way in which the said time period is to be utilized to obviate the concerns regarding unwarranted abuse of the provision.
Providing a detailed directional mechanism for ensuring successful operationalization of the rules at the lower court levels, especially in the rural areas.
To appreciate the reasoning behind our recommendations please refer to our detailed comments drafted by Mr Bhavya Birla, Mr Nipun Dave, Ms Shruti Shreya and Mr Pranav Bhaskar Tiwari here.