The Supreme Court will livestream all Constitutional Bench hearings from September 27, which means anyone can watch the proceedings in cases such as the challenges to the Citizenship Amendment Act and the revocation of special status under Article 370 to Jammu and Kashmir, and the quota to Upper Castes on economic basis.
This is a major decision since the new Chief Justice of India (CJI), Uday Umesh Lalit, took office, though a tangible step was taken on August 26, when proceedings from the the then Chief Justice NV Ramana’s court were livestreamed on his last day in office.
Justice UU Lalit recently presided over a full court meeting where judges unanimously decided that live-streaming should begin with constitutional cases, and could later cover all proceedings.
The Supreme Court had in 2018 ruled in favour of opening up the proceedings through livestreaming — as per citizen rights under Article 21 of the Constitution — but that remained to be implemented.
During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, courts functioned through video-conferencing. That led to a wider acceptance of the use of technology, though originally brought on by a lack of options during the lockdowns.
Senior lawyer Indira Jaising, one of the petitioners in the 2018 case, last week wrote to the judges to start the livestreaming in “matters of public and constitutional importance… to keep a permanent record of the arguments by counsel on all sides along with the proceedings of the court”.
In her email to the Supreme Court’s official address on September 14, she underlined that “issues of great national importance” are in the court. Besides the case on validity of the 103rd Constitutional Amendment that gave reservation to economically weaker sections, she referred to cases on sub-categorisation within Scheduled Castes for reservation, and the extension of quotas to Christians and Muslims.
She stressed that the upcoming case on the validity of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the primary arguments will deal with what secularism in the Indian Constitution — “and in that sense the idea of India itself” — means.
She cited the streaming of the ceremonial proceedings on the day of Justice Ramana’s retirement last month to say that the infrastructure is available. She also said the livestream is “a part of the fundamental right of every citizen to freedom of information… as also the right of access to justice”.