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Written by: Smita Pandey (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)

BACKGROUND

Nupur Thapliyal (Legal Correspondent, Live Law), Sparsh Upadhyay (Special Legal Correspondent, Live Law), Areeb Uddin Ahmed (Legal Correspondent, Bar and Bench), and Rahul Dubey (Legal Correspondent, Dainik Bhaskar) filed a writ petition on the grounds of fundamental right to attend, observe, transcribe, and report on matters of public importance. The petitioners (herein the journalists) opposed the Madhya Pradesh Video Conferencing & Audio-Visual Electronic Linkage Rules, 2020, to the extent that they exclude ‘third parties’ from accessing virtual court sessions and make real-time reporting in a public forum problematic for journalists.

Under these guidelines, only lawyers representing the parties are permitted, and anyone who does not fit the description of the required person nor has no direct connection to the case is not permitted. According to rule 16 of the challenged rules, a third person will only be permitted to stay present in court proceedings if the court makes a special order.

JOURNALIST’S PERSPECTIVE

Journalists asserted that they were compelled to participate in virtual court sessions using pseudonyms because if they used their real names, they would be immediately disconnected if the court or technical personnel found out.

  • The petitioner further stated that if they are not allowed in the courtroom, they will be unable to cover the judgements, orders, outcomes, and arguments of the attorneys during the hearing.
  • Senior Advocate Nidhesh Gupta, the petitioners’ attorney, further contended that journalists had a right to report the Court’s proceedings under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Live reporting is not prohibited anyplace else in the country, it was further argued.
  • He cited the case of Swapnil Tripathi and Ors vs. Supreme Court of India and Ors, in which the Supreme Court agreed to live-stream court sessions for the public good.
COURTS PERSPECTIVE & JUDGMENT

The appeal was dismissed by a division bench consisting of Justice Prakash Shrivastava and Justice Virender Singh. Upon clarifying that the live streaming of the court proceedings will be done subject to restrictions as per the judgement of Swapnil. The court disposed of the plea, saying:

“Hence, the writ petitions are disposed of by taking note of the resolution of the E-Court Committee of the High Court dated 14.06.2021 in respect of sharing the link to live streaming of Court proceedings conducted via Video Conferencing through the website of the High Court in one way mode and directing the I.T. Wing of the High Court to give effect to the said resolution without any unnecessary delay.”

“You people have in fact supported the Court,” the Court said orally, “and the E-Committee of the High Court has reached a decision to publish the live web links of the hearings being conducted in virtual mode on its website.” In addition, Justice Prakash Shrivastava stated, “The Supreme Court’s decision in Swapnil Tripathi must be followed to the letter, and the High Court is bound by it. However, as outlined in the aforementioned judgment, there are several exceptions, such as safeguarding the secrecy of proceedings in appropriate instances when necessary.

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