SC livestream helps law students train in “courtcraft,” senior attorneys say, but some cite a downside

A new era in Indian justice began late last month with the start of live broadcasting of Supreme Court proceedings on matters of constitutional and national importance.

Day 1 of the live stream on September 27 drew 8,000 views on the Supreme Court’s website, alongside coverage on TV channels and their social media handles.

While the move makes court proceedings more transparent and accessible to ordinary citizens, there’s another group that’s grateful for this insight into legal rigors — law students. The students, who would one day be part of the justice system, will be able to observe the court’s workings firsthand, senior lawyers told News18.

“Live streaming of court proceedings would make courts accessible to the general public. Not only would it bring transparency, but it would also be a plus for law students and interns who would see the practicality of the court craft right before their eyes,” Senior Advocate Rebecca John told News18.

“It would serve as a Vardan for law students from Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities who might not be able to access the Supreme Court in the general course,” she added.

According to lead attorney Sanjoy Ghose, “On the positive side, live streaming creates an audiovisual record of the trial for posterity. It would capture the judicial craft of the intervention of the lawyers and judges, the case management. Law students can now access these hearings and learn about how the bar and bank made history.”

However, the lead counsel also pointed to a downside, saying the court’s questions could be construed as the judge’s personal beliefs. “In India’s adversarial legal system, the court often makes inquiries to lawyers on opposite sides to examine the outlines of a legal proposal,” he explained.

“Just because the court asks a question doesn’t necessarily mean the judge believes it. It simply means that the judge wants to hear the lawyer’s view on the point. In the age of live tweets and live streams, that kind of open and free discourse could represent causality as every comment from the bank becomes breaking news and is dissected and analyzed beyond measure,” Ghose added.

Welcoming the move and drawing attention to its importance, Vikas Pahwa, senior attorney and board member of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said: “The aim of live streaming is to facilitate the concept of public court hearings. It makes the justice system more transparent and accountable. This is a major milestone in the history of our country’s correctional system. I applaud the Supreme Court for making this possible.”

Addressing concerns about the move, Pahwa said: “It is true that both the bar and the bank are now subject to scrutiny, not only on their legal knowledge, level of readiness, behavior but also on their dress and dialect. There should be criticism, debate, analysis of what is being said and observed in the courtrooms. But ultimately it will strengthen the credibility of the institution.”

Citing the benefits of livestreaming for law students, he said, “Young lawyers and law students will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of livestreaming court cases.”

The long-awaited move of live-streamed court cases came to fruition after the full court unanimously approved it for cases of national importance beginning September 27.

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