THE NATIONAL LAWYERS’ CAMPAIGN FOR JUDICIAL TRANSPARENCY AND REFORMS
304, Hari Chambers, 3rd Floor, 54/68 SBS Marg, Near Old Customs House, Fort Mumbai- 400 023
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AN OPEN LETTER TO THE
HON’BLE CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA
25th May, 2015
The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India,
Supreme Court of India,
1. His Lordship’s Companion Judges
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR LORDSHIPS,
1. I address Your Lordships with a heavy heart. I, as a lawyer of no consequence representing the sons of lesser Gods, the first generation lawyers who hail from humble backgrounds, who in relative terms suffer great disadvantage in climbing up the ladder of legal profession, for the said noble profession has long been one meant for those who are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, have been campaigning for greater transparency and reforms in the judiciary for the last few years. Our campaign has till date been a cry in the wilderness, but that in no way could douse our spirit. For us, the cause gives the courage and conviction and gives us the confidence that the goal of a just and fair system of administration of justice will be achieved.
2. We believe that video-recording of Court proceedings and live telecast thereof, nay, hearings of all important issues, as the hearing of the constitutional validity of the Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014 and the NJAC Act, 2014 before the Five-Judge Constitution Bench or the Nine of Eleven Judge Constitution Bench which might be constituted, will alone bring in real revolution in making the system of administration of justice far fairer than what it is today and will instill far greater confidence of the public in the institution of judiciary.
3. We met Hon’ble Shri Justice R.M. Lodha in August,2014, the then Chief Justice of India, a learned, erudite and judicious soul, who in principle was pleased to agree to our request for video-recording of Court proceedings. Legendary Justice Krishna Iyer, the vocal advocate of transparency in judiciary, is the motivation and the force behind us. Hon’ble Shri Justice Lodha, while agreeing with the concept of video-recording of Court proceedings, was kind enough to indicate that the higher judiciary still constitutes to be conservative, yet to come out of the shackles of the feudal mindset and traditions, and promised to seek the support of Brother Judges. The hearing of the NJAC case, an issue in which millions of ordinary citizens, lawyers, law students, academicians, politicians, nay, the public at large, are keenly interested, is conducted in Court Room No.4 of this Hon’ble Court which could hardly accommodate 200 people. The Court Room No.4 has only 50 or so chairs. Around 200 advocates and citizens gather there to hear and participate in the matter and they are subjected to worst scenario of stacking like animals on a truck. The musical chairs which happens all the day throughout the procedures are sub-human in nature, tiresome in practice and reducing the very dignity of a sacrosanct national institution. The tactics of the big firms to secure a seat by posting a dummy right from 09:30 AM till the raising of the Hon’ble Court is a shame to the Nation as a whole. Even the various High Courts have better halls and dignified seating arrangements to conduct the cases of public importance, allowing the presence of public and lawyers at large. There were times when the game of chairs led to sharp and heated, but subdued exchange of tempers among the present in the hall. The worst has not happened, but is on the anvil to happen. Its a problem existing, even though curable with simple solutions, if the concerned authorities take a responsible stand on such a trivial but alarming issue. Since the hearing of the said case started, many lawyers who are part of the campaign for judicial transparency and others are camping in Delhi to hear the arguments and waiting for an opportunity to address the Hon’ble Court. An entry to the packed Court Room and to find a place to sit is a near impossibility.
4. The Other problem is with the entry of press. The press are not allowed a proper seating or entry to participate and record the proceedings in a dignified manner as well. The parliament of India is having a press gallery to record the proceedings. Whereas the Court rooms do not have any proper enclosure for the press to be accommodated. It leads to a specific situation where the press persons are subjected to physical hardship and mental strain to record the proceedings in its true spirit and verbatim. Often they are not hearing also the actual submissions made. Then it leads them to depend upon certain other advocates to know what really has happened. It may even cause the reporting of factual errors, unconsciously. I strongly believe that this is not the dignity, the press shall be accorded with, which is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy, sharing the same responsibility at par with other democratic organs. The members of the press are forced to crawl up in the seats between the dais and the desk from where the lawyers address the Court.
5. Technology has advanced so much. All Courts in India are connected electronically. Video-recording and live telecast of Court proceedings offer no difficulty, and hardly involve any extra expenditure. In the rest of the world, UK, USA, Australia, Sri Lanka, Singapore et al, Court proceedings are video recorded. Ordinary citizen is baffled at the opposition, though not expressed in so many words, which some quarters harbour, for video-recording and telecast of Court proceedings. All are expected to wholeheartedly support it, for, the Supreme Court is a Court of record and there cannot be a better mechanism for recording proceedings than video-recording. Right to information is held to be an essential facet of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution.
6. Shri Deepak Anand, Advocate, made a request to the Constitution Bench that the proceedings of the NJAC case be video-recorded, though it was a mere oral submission. The Constitution Bench has been hearing the case since 15th April, 2015. The defence of the NJAC Act by the learned Attorney General, which the undersigned had the good fortune to listen, is one which, if video-recorded, will be remembered as one of the greatest arguments in the legal history. We worship the octogenarian senior lawyers for their great erudition, wisdom and knowledge as also for their big devotion for the profession of advocacy which, to them, is a mission. At the same time, the young generation also ought to be heard; they are also allowed to be spoken. Video-recording of Court proceedings will mean fair treatment of lawyers, irrespective of their age and standing. It will allow the public at large to understand who are the capable advocates, based upon their legal acumen and presentation, rather than being swayed by the face values.
7. Before I part with, I can appeal to the learned senior lawyers that our Supreme Court is supreme; its traditions are great; it is an institution which has enjoyed the confidence of the people, but to maintain that foundation strong as ever before, they should support the cause of greater transparency; they must come forward openly in support of video-recording of Court proceedings. To ignore the seismic pressure which has been built up for many an injustice, which the junior section of the Bar and the poor litigant are made to bear, may mean an earthquake of high density which legendary Justice Krishna Iyer forewarned by saying: ”One day the people of this country will rise and say that we don’t want this magnificent red stone edifice on the Curzon Road”
8. I part with in the unstinted hope that this letter at the hands of a humble man of no consequence for the cause of billions of countrymen will not go unnoticed and Your Lordships will introduce/order video-recording of all important Court proceedings and in particular the proceedings of the NJAC case. Such a decision will ever be cherished in the judicial history of our great nation, ‘Bharat’ for the thousands of years to come.
9. For which act of kindness, I shall ever remain obliged.
With most respectful regards,
(Mathews J. Nedumpara)
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