SCO Daily: The Supreme Court Goes Live!

On September 27th the Supreme Court will fulfill its commitment and live stream three Constitution Bench proceedings to the public

Next Tuesday will mark a permanent shift in how Indian citizens engage with the Supreme Court. The Times of India reported that the Supreme Court will begin live streaming Constitution Bench proceedings from September 27th. 

The story of live streaming Courts in India begins in 2017. So lets rewind. 

In 2017, law student Swapnil Tripathi had a tough time entering courtrooms in the SC as an intern. Tripathi filed a PIL asking the Court to set up live streaming rooms within the Court premises, so that interns can witness proceedings without crowding the courtrooms. Senior Advocate Indira Jaising joined the case, prompting the Court to harness the immense potential of the internet. She asked the Court to live stream important cases to the world, allowing all citizens to tune in.

In September 2018 the Court delivered a Judgment in Swapnil Tripathi’s case, marking its  belated entry into the internet age. Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Khanwilkar and Chandrachud held that cases of constitutional and national importance should be broadcast to the public. 

For three years after this Judgment, we didnt hear a peep from the Court about live streaming. Then, in June 2021, the E-Committee of the Supreme Court released Draft Rules on live streaming at High Courts. 

The Gujarat and Karnataka High Courts were some of the first to begin streaming proceedings on YouTube. Citizens seemed to embrace the newfound access. The Hijab Ban case alone saw over 200,000 viewers tune in to the proceedings at the Karnataka High Court in February 2022. 

Even after the High Court live streaming experience, the Supreme Court remained hesitant to follow through on its commitment. In July 2021, former Chief Justice Ramana expressed concerns about Judges being swayed by public opinion and lawyers vying for public attention. 

The Supreme Court finally dipped its toe in the live stream (pun intended) on the eve of Chief Justice Ramana’s retirement. On August 26th, 2022, the proceedings in the Chief Justice’s courtroom were streamed for the entire day, ironically with lawyers tearfully expressing their admiration for CJI Ramana in front of the cameras.

Tuesday will see three Constitution Benches live streaming arguments in three vital cases on Youtube. So you can hear debates that will shape Indian society, politics and law directly, right from your living room. 

How will this public viewership affect the Court? How will the Court achieve transparency without compromising on its independence? Stay tuned to find out!