Opening up of SC
What’s constant is change. What remains stagnant erodes in strength over time. So too with our systems, most of which were put in place shortly after Independence 75 years ago. Change therefore is the order of things. India’s judiciary, which retained its systems with rare zeal all these years, will have to change with the times too and make itself more responsive to the people’s aspirations. The society today is vastly different from that of the 1950s. Those who fail to understand the need for change are those who are comfortable with the system or who derive undue benefits from them. They obviously have a vested interest in carrying forward with what’s stale. In this context, the historic first formal live-streaming of the Supreme Court proceedings on Tuesday comes as a whiff of fresh air.
In a test case, the proceedings before the ceremonial bench on the date of retirement of the former CJI NV Ramana were live-streamed in August. The system was further tested in the last two days and was found to be implementable. In fact, the Supreme Court order favouring live telecast of the proceedings in matters of constitutional importance was delivered in 2018. The matter, after a long lull, was taken forward by a unanimous decision of the apex court the other day by present CJI, UU Lalit, to start this process from September 27. This was the same day the original decision was taken four years ago. Implementation of decisions here takes its own sweet time as those who run the nation have set a slow pace for themselves. When offices begin functioning from 8am in most nations, the working hours here start from 10 am, or 9 am in some segments. This is only a reflection of the lethargy that marks our life.
Selective live-streaming of court proceedings, now in respect of constitution bench cases, is fine for a start but the cause must be taken forward. Courts in India are “sacred” and no criticism is allowed. This does not mean there is no reason to criticise courts. As long as judges retained a halo of being fair-minded and beyond influences, this was fine. But, even the last CJI, Ramana, exited from office recently with a baggage of serious allegations, one of these being that he took land costing Rs 250 crore for free from the Telangana government. The ‘crores for bail’ bribe scandal of the past is fresh in our minds. All these go to stress that more transparency in the functioning of Indian courts is most welcome in these times of a crisis of confidence in the system.