Following push by journalists for media access, Allahabad High Court lets the sunshine in

  • Ratna Singh
  • 04:49 PM, 08 Jun 2021

The Allahabad High Court today opened access to Court hearings and provided VC links for its courts proceedings. The links are available on the official website of the Court.

On previous date the Division Bench of Justice Pankaj Naqvi and Justice Jayant Banerji adjourned had the matter for six weeks and observed that,

"No one is disputing your right. They're working on all the aspects of the matter, we have to give them some time."

The Court further noted that, there was no need to pass any interim order in the matter after the Petitioner's counsel urged the Court to direct that no coercive action shall be taken against the media persons in case they live report the court proceedings. The Bench responded, "Who is preventing you?”

The Bench was informed by the learned counsel representing the High Court that guidelines for Live Streaming have been received by the Chief Justice of the High Court from the Chairman of the E-Committee of the Supreme Court and suggestions have been invited for the same.

The petition was preferred by petitioners; legal journalists Sparsh Upadhyay and Areeb Uddin Ahmed along with three other law students.

The plea averred that,

“Owing to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation, the access of the litigants, media personnel and public generally, including the petitioners – legal journalists and law students, to the Court proceedings, have been extremely restricted. Even in the pre-COVID-19 era, Court proceedings were largely inaccessible to the public at large. The people, for any information on the Court proceedings, in cases of constitutional and public importance or touching upon the rights of a considerable section of people, need to rely upon second-hand and hearsay sources, which, more often than not, suffer from various flaws and the vice of inaccuracy.”

The plea further stated that,

“With the forward march of technology and the easy availability and abundance of the same, live streaming/telecast of the Court hearings are now reasonably and easily possible, thereby greatly expanding the concept of ‘open Court’ which would now include within its sweep, the Court’s electronic/digital presence through live telecast/streaming.”

It must be noted that, the people have a fundamental right of access to justice and right to know, guaranteed to them, under Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Constitution of India, for which reason the public is entitled to witness Court hearings/proceedings involving issues having an impact on the public at large or a section of the public, as the case may be.

Taking into account the facts of the present case the petitioners referred to the decision given by the Supreme Court of India where it has allowed the live streaming/telecast of its proceedings in the matter of Swapnil Tripathi & ORS. v. Supreme Court of India & ORS AIR 2018 SC 4806 / (2018) 10 SCC 639, while observing that:  “Live-streaming of court proceedings is manifestly in public interest. It is important to reemphasise the significance of live-streaming as an extension of the principle of open justice and open courts.”

Therefore the petitioners asserted that,

 “when the VC hearings, as are in currency now, by their design itself, militate against the well cherished and hallowed principle of ‘Open Court’ and ‘Open Justice System’ by excluding access to the public, including the petitioners (as journalists and law students) proliferating a system of ‘Justice behind closed doors,’ in teeth of the very basic structure and foundations of the Constitution. Accordingly, the public, including the petitioners as journalists and law students, deserve to get access to behold and witness the magnificence and glory of the Courts proceedings in full bloom, so that justice must not only be done, but also seen to be done.”