Cameras in the Courtroom

CC Licensed available at http://www.flickr.com/photos/53611153@N00/8390186553

The relationship of the camera with the Court has been something I often think about. Though plainly it should be about increasing transparency by capturing information accurately, it’s use till today been for everything but this. 

Only today while sitting in the the Chief Justices Court in the Delhi High Court, the definition of the surveillance State stared at me. Above the judges chairs is the Ashoka Emblem. Adorned with the crest of the universal triumph of truth. Perched over it, in an environment which takes symbolism seriously, was a beacon containing a CCTV camera. Demands for audio or video recording of court proceedings has been resisted till date. This obviously serves an interest of accountability and transparency. However the same arguments are not even initiated when an ostensible security interest is at play.

Leave aside this example. Bhagwandas Road, which is right opposite Pragati Maidan in Delhi is now usually jammed. Lawyers cause it, but the media vans which enable live transmissions contribute gladly. Everyday cameras are nearly lined up in the lawns, where reporters await the latest pronouncement.

Every order and judgement goes through a process of an appeal by a soundbyte. Ultimately falling in the realm of public discussion. Lawyers, petitioners invoke the writ remedies with the hope of airtime. What’s unfortunate is that even the Courts condone such efforts and acknowledge the influence of media reports. One often gets the feeling that petitions succeed on the strength of argument on camera’s than legal claims. These pressures often move the court away from the law to an expectation of acceptability. Ultimately the institution suffers.

The dome of the main building and the venetian pillars are pretty, but the architecture of the Court rests on fidelity to the constitution and precedent. Even if these are not photogenic.

p.s. I wrote this quite a while back, when posting a picture from instagram. Since this was on my Facebook feed, I thought I would repost it on the blog for archiving it in a more manageable manner.

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