The Supreme Court cited the ghastly 26/11 Mumbai attack and 2016 Patiala House court violence in Delhi to count on the benefits of installations of CCTV cameras in courts and tribunals, saying it wanted to bring discipline, security and oversight in judicial proceedings.
The top court, while referring to the CCTV grab of convict Ajmal Kasab at Victoria Terminus railway station, said it had proved detrimental for him during the trial.
Similarly, the bench also cited case of Swapnil alias Pintu Shirke, who was lynched inside district court premises in Nagpur on February 11, 2002, saying there was no CCTV evidence and despite the murder having taken before hundreds of people, no one came forward.
A bench of Justices Adarsh Goel and U U Lalit lauded the government for the “good work” done in installations of CCTV cameras in several tribunals, including the National Green Tribunal, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal and National Company Law Tribunal.
“Like 26/11 Mumbai attacks where CCTV cameras at the Victoria Terminus railway station caught one of the perpetrators of the incident, the CCTV use can be beneficial,” it said.
There were attacks in court premises also, like the Nagpur court case where the murder took place in broad daylight but no one came forward, it said.
The bench referred to other incidents of violence in court premises and said the JNU case in which then students union leader Kanhaiya Kumar was attacked, even in Tis Hazari Court murder had taken place, CCTV had recorded the incident.
“We want to ensure discipline, security and oversight in courts with the help of CCTV cameras. If there is any privacy issue, then the CCTV cameras can be switched off,” it said and advocated the adoption of new technology.
It asked the Centre to consider installation of CCTV cameras in state tribunals and quasi-judicial authorities, including the executive magistrate, revenue courts and availability of a terminal with oversight bodies.
“As far as central quasi judicial authorities are concerned, the Ministry of Law and Justice may consider this aspect within four weeks. As far as state tribunals and state quasi judicial authorities are concerned, we request the High Courts to consider this aspect on the administrative/judicial side,” the bench said.
It said the question whether the terminal of CCTV cameras can be available with the oversight bodies may also be considered by the central government and the concerned High Courts.
The top court also asked the high courts and the Centre to look into the concerns raised by amicus curiae Sidharth Luthra on the identity of sexual offence victims and protected witnesses appearing in anti-terror laws like MCOCA and UAPA.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing on April 5.
Earlier this month, the apex court had pulled up the Centre for adopting a “callous approach” on the issue of installation of CCTVs in courts and tribunals for recording judicial proceedings and sought a status report on the work done on it till now.
The apex court said it will first see the response of the pilot project of CCTV installations in trial courts and tribunals and then would look for the possibility in high courts and the Supreme Court.
The apex court was hearing a plea filed by a man named Pradyuman Bisht seeking audio and video recording of court proceedings in order to bring transparency.
On December 11 last year, the apex court had asked the Centre to look into the possibility of connecting live video recordings of court proceedings with National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG).
On November 23 last year, the Centre had informed the apex court that live video recordings of judicial proceedings have started in several trial courts and tribunals in various states with the help of CCTVs installed in court rooms.
Live video recording of judicial proceedings assumes significance as the apex court and various high courts had in the past refused to allow it.
Taking a reformatory approach and in a bid to bring in transparency, the top court had on March 28 last, for the first time, directed the installation of CCTV cameras in courts of two districts of each state and union territory.
The apex court later expanded its order and directed for installation of CCTVs in all the trial courts and tribunals. The apex court had earlier said there was no need for privacy in courtrooms as nothing private happened there and had favoured early installation of close circuit televisions in the courts.