In a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, a group of law students and young lawyers called Whistle for Public Interest (WHIP) have requested that microphones or public address systems be mandatorily used in the courtrooms of the Supreme Court. When courtrooms are crowded and it’s hard to hear judges speak, not using a public address system doesn’t seem to be a good practice, the group has argued.
WHIP points out two essential stakeholders who can benefit from the use of the public address system in a courtroom and who face difficulties otherwise. On one hand is the law fraternity itself – the lawyers, law interns, litigators. On the other hand is the media, which reports court proceedings for the public.
Those directly involved with the case face difficulties as most of the time they themselves are unable to hear the court proceedings. Kumar Shanu, an advocate with WHIP says, “I had faced problems as an intern. But then I soon realised that litigants and advocates also face the same problem.”
“A litigant not being able to properly observe the proceedings of his/her own case is nothing but a travesty of justice,” WHIP’s letter to the CJI reads.
Avani Bansal, a Supreme Court advocate had addressed the same issue in an article earlier. “While the legal stalwarts present their arguments, most people are hard pressed to listen to what is being said in the court-room. What is in the largest public interest can hardly be heard by those members of the public who find themselves in that,” she had written.
For media professionals too, it is important to be able to hear the proceedings, so they don’t end up misreporting, which can result in punitive action against them. “It is to be noted that with the growing influence of digital media, there is a great rush to break the news in real time. This might cause misreporting leading to irreparable loss to all the stakeholders involved. The chances of misreporting may easily be minimised by use of the already installed Mic system in the court rooms,” the letter states.
As per an RTI reply received by the group, a total of Rs 91,95,859 has so far been spent on the replacement of the mics in the Supreme Court, which aren’t put to use in all the courtrooms. They had filed an RTI application to know why such a system has been set up in courtrooms and what public money was spent in installing the same. The RTI reply stated that the mic or public addressing system is an inherent part of the courtroom infrastructure since its inception.
Notably, earlier too the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission had acted on a plea by WHIP and reduced the gap between the bench of presiding members and the place where parties arguing the case are seated.