Transparency and accountability are two major foundation rods for any pillar of the democracy. The more transparent a body is, the more confidence people will have on it. It has been a long standing demand from several civil society groups and also from the government itself to have audio and video recording of the court proceedings. However, the judiciary has been reluctant in making itself open for public scrutiny. Nevertheless, the recent decision of the government to allow CCTV cameras inside the court rooms is a move in the right direction. On the other hand, if the trust on judiciary has to be improved, then few landmark judgements will not suffice. The whole system has to become transparent.
The recent decision of judiciary can be summed up in following way:
No audio recording, but only video recording of the court proceedings through Closed Circuit Television Vision (CCTV) Cameras.
At least, two districts in each state to have CCTV cameras in courts and in court complexes.
High courts to have cameras installed within 3 months.
These video recordings are not accessible through RTI without the order of the High Court.
This eventually means that the opacity still remains in the judiciary because no one will get to know what has been told in the court as there is no audio recording. They are not accessible through RTI and the decision of High Court may take longer time. Later on, the same issue itself may become a burden to the courts which are already having lot of cases pending with them. This will result in both delay and denial of justice.
The judiciary has kept itself opaque from people as well as other organs of democracy like legislation and executive. That is why, despite being passed, National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) Act was quashed by the honorable Supreme Court. I agree that some judges are favouring NJAC and they have to be considered as an exception. NJAC would have given more transparency in the appointment of judges. But collegiums system has overpowered NJAC.
While we are talking about self disclosure by the governments to maintain transparency and accountability, while we are forcing the political parties to come under RTI and disclose about the sources of their funds, it is important for judiciary to introspect its views and decisions. All expenditures that is incurred on judiciary comes from public money and public should have the right to know the proceedings of the courts. It will not only improve trust on judiciary, but also speed up the proceedings of the cases as judges can access the recordings of the previous proceedings which will help them to move ahead faster with the case.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)