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Issue No: 67
May 10 , 2008

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Indian SC lets camera crew film Lok Adalat session

The judiciary on Saturday took the historic first step towards videographing court proceedings, as often demanded by critics seeking more transparency, by throwing open the doors of its court rooms to TV cameras and print cameramen to record proceedings of 'people's court' dispensing speedy justice.

The judges Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Ashok Bhan, Arijit Pasayat and Aftab Alam were without their black robes, sat close to the litigants under the glare of the camera and dispensed justice by thrashing out settlements, an experience unique to the apex court where the cameras are kept 100 metres away from the court rooms.

Is this the first step towards videographing the apex court proceedings? TOI asked the CJI. "You may say so, but the proceedings were not strictly court proceedings though they were held inside the CJI's Court and in Court No 2 of the apex court.

The judges were presiding over the Lok Adalats," said Justice Balakrishnan.

The CJI is not averse to the idea of videorecording the court proceedings. He knows that it is done in several countries mainly for the purpose of maintaining an official record of the proceedings. "The time has not come to allow cameras inside SC proceedings," the CJI said.

He is an optimist though. "Ultimately, time will come when it will be allowed," he said. He feels the time is not ripe for allowing videorecording of proceedings because the judiciary handles several sensitive matters and that the proceedings are not always civilised.

"Sometimes there are embarrassing moments during court hearings. There are so many sensitive matters. And many acrimonious exchanges between lawyers. It will take some time before the courts allowed videorecording of their proceedings," he said.

Justice Balakrishnan, who has initiated many a new step for clearing the huge backlog of cases that slows down the wheels of justice, said the focus was on making the common people in rural areas aware of their rights under existing laws and providing them a helping hand to seek redressal of their grievances.

Does the spate of criticism of lack of transparency, accountability, pendency of cases exasperate him? "I do not feel exasperated at all. There are many challenges before the judiciary. We will do our best to meet them to the best of our ability and it is the litigants who should judge us," he said.

The single important factor delaying quick adjudication of cases is the lack of adequate number of judges and infrastructure, he said. Reminded about his recent remark about the difficulty in filling up the existing vacancies in judges' posts for lower courts, he said most of the states were conducting examinations and exuded confidence that around 2,500 vacant posts would be filled within six months.

Despite the inadequacy of numbers, the judiciary has always risen to the occasion, he said, recalling the prompt service rendered by the judicial officers in earthquake and tsunami-affected states in speedily deciding cases relating to payment of compensation to victims and their families. With setting up of additional family courts and CBI courts, as agreed to by the government, the burden on the lower court judges would reduce considerably, he said.

How does it feel to be judge who has a heavy work load and pittance of a salary?

"The job gives tremendous satisfaction. Moreover, there is no one who would call us in the middle of work to do this or that. There is no tension of pleasing the superiors," the CJI said refusing to comment on the need for increase in salary. dhananjay.mahapatra@timesgroup.com

Source: The Times of India


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