Breaking News Delhi HC puts out rules on video conferencing for...

Delhi HC puts out rules on video conferencing for courts, disallows unauthorised recording

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New Delhi, Oct 28 (ILNS) The Delhi High Court has formulated video conferencing rules to consolidate, unify and streamline the procedure relating to the use of video conferencing for Courts.

The rules were formulated by the High court by exercising its powers under Section 7 of the Delhi High Court Act, 1966 and Article 227 of the Constitution of India, with the prior approval of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

Chapter one of the rules provides a definition whereas Chapter two deals with General Principles Governing Video Conferencing which includes:-

(i) Video conferencing facilities may be used at all stages of judicial proceedings and proceedings conducted by the Court. 
(ii) All proceedings conducted by a Court via video conferencing shall be judicial proceedings and all the courtesies and protocols applicable to a physical Court shall apply to these virtual proceedings. The protocol provided in Schedule I shall be adhered to for proceedings conducted by way of video conferencing. 
(iii) All relevant statutory provisions applicable to judicial proceedings including provisions of the CPC, CrPC, Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (Evidence Act), and Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act), shall apply to proceedings conducted by video conferencing. 
(iv) Subject to maintaining independence, impartiality and credibility of judicial proceedings, and subject to such directions as the High Court may issue, Courts may adopt such technological advances as may become available from time to time. 
(v) The Rules as applicable to a Court shall mutatis mutandis apply to a Commissioner appointed by the Court to record evidence and to an inquiry officer conducting an inquiry. 
(vi) There shall be no unauthorised recording of the proceedings by any person or entity. 
(vii) The person defined in Rule 2(xii) shall provide identity proof as recognised by the Government of India/State Government/Union Territory to the Court point coordinator via personal email. In case of identity proof not being readily available the person concerned shall furnish the following personal details: name, parentage and permanent address, as also, temporary address if any.

For Preparatory arrangements, there shall be a Coordinator both at the Court Point and at the Remote Point from which any Required Person is to be examined or heard. However, the Coordinator may be required at the Remote Point only when a witness or a person accused of an offence is to be examined.

Rule 6 provides  Application for Appearance, Evidence and Submission by Video Conferencing:- 6.1 Any party to the proceeding or witness, save and except where proceedings are initiated at the instance of the Court, may move a request for video conferencing. A party or witness seeking a video conferencing proceeding shall do so by making a request via the form prescribed in Schedule II. 
6.2 Any proposal to move a request for video conferencing should first be discussed with the other party or parties to the proceeding, except where it is not possible or inappropriate, for example in cases such as urgent applications. 
6.3 On receipt of such a request and upon hearing all concerned persons, the Court will pass an appropriate order after ascertaining that the application is not filed to impede a fair trial or to delay the proceedings.
6.4 While allowing a request for video conferencing, the Court may also fix the schedule for convening the video conferencing. 
6.5 In case the video conferencing event is convened for making oral submissions, the order may require the Advocate or party in person to submit written arguments and precedents, if any, in advance on the official email ID of the concerned Court. 
6.6 Costs, if directed to be paid, shall be deposited within the prescribed time, commencing from the date on which the order convening proceedings through video conferencing is received.

If digital signatures are not available, the printout of the transcript shall be signed by the presiding Judge and the representative of the parties, if any, at the Court Point and shall be sent in non-editable scanned format to the official email account of the Remote Point, where a printout of the same will be taken and signed by the person examined and countersigned by the Coordinator at the Remote Point. A non-editable scanned format of the transcript so signed shall be sent by the Coordinator of the Remote Point to the official email account of the Court Point, where a printout of the same will be taken and shall be made a part of the judicial record. The hard copy would also be dispatched preferably within three days by the Coordinator at the Remote Point to the Court Point by a recognised courier/registered speed post, the rule said in For Judicial remand, the framing of charge, the examination of accused and Proceedings under Section 164 of the CrPC:-
11.1 The Court may, at its discretion, authorize the detention of an accused, frame charges in a criminal trial under the CrPC by video conferencing. However, ordinarily judicial remand in the first instance or police remand shall not be granted through video conferencing save and except in exceptional circumstances for reasons to be recorded in writing. 
11.2 The Court may, in exceptional circumstances, for reasons to be recorded in writing, examine a witness or an accused under Section 164 of the CrPC or record the statement of the accused under Section 313 CrPC through video conferencing, while observing all due precautions to ensure that the witness or the accused as the case may be is free of any form of coercion, threat or undue influence. The Court shall ensure compliance with Section 26 of the Evidence Act.

Chapter four of the Rules deals with 12. The general procedure includes:-
12.1 The procedure set out hereafter in this chapter is without prejudice to the procedure indicated elsewhere in these Rules qua specific instances in which proceedings are conducted via video conferencing. 
12.2 The Coordinator at the Court Point shall ensure that video conferencing is conducted only through a Designated Video Conferencing Software. However, in the event of a technical glitch during a given proceeding, the concerned Court may for reasons to be recorded permit the use of software other than the Designated Video Conferencing Software for video conferencing in that particular proceeding. 
12.3 The identity of the person to be examined shall be confirmed by the Court with the assistance of the Coordinator at the Remote Point as per Rule 8.1, at the time of recording of the evidence and the same must be reflected in the order sheet of the Court. 
12.4 In civil cases, parties requesting for recording statements of the person to be examined by video conferencing shall confirm to the Court, the location of the person, the willingness of such person to be examined through video conferencing and the availability of technical facilities for video conferencing at the agreed-upon time and place. 
12.5 In criminal cases, where the person to be examined is a prosecution witness or a Court witness, or where a person to be examined is a defence witness, the counsel for the prosecution or defence counsel, as the case may be, shall conform to the Court the location of the person, willingness to be examined by video conferencing and the time, place and technical facility for such video conferencing. 
12.6 In case the person to be examined is an accused, the prosecution will confirm the location of the accused at the Remote Point. 
12.7 Video conferencing shall ordinarily take place during Court hours. However, the Court may pass suitable directions concerning the timing and schedule of video conferencing as the circumstances may warrant. 
12.8 If the accused is in custody and not present at the Court Point, the Court will order a multi-point video conference between itself, the witness and the accused in custody to facilitate the recording of the statement of the witness (including medical or other experts). The Court shall ensure that the defence of the accused is not prejudiced in any manner and that the safeguards contained in Rule 8.3 are observed. 
12.9 The Coordinator at the Remote Point shall be paid such amount as honorarium as may be directed by the Court in consultation with the parties.

Rule 13 provides Costs of Video Conferencing, Conduct of Proceedings are included in Rule 14 and Rule 15 have access to Legal Aid Clinics/Camps/Lok Adalats/Jail Adalats.

The schedules One set out the code of conduct and the request form for video conference which reads

1. All participants shall wear sober attire consistent with the dignity of the proceedings. Advocates shall be appropriately dressed in professional attire prescribed under the Advocates Act, 1961. Police officials shall appear in the uniform prescribed for police officials under the relevant statute or orders. The attire for judicial officers and court staff will be as specified in the relevant rules prescribed in that behalf by the High Court. The decision of the Presiding Judge or officer as to the dress code will be final. 
2. Proceedings shall be conducted at the appointed date and time. Punctuality shall be scrupulously observed. 
3. The case will be called out and appearances shall be recorded on the direction of the Court. 
4. Every participant shall adhere to the courtesies and protocol that are followed in a physical Court. Judges will be addressed as “Madam/Sir” or “Your Honour”. Officers will be addressed by their designation such as “Bench Officer/Court Master”. Advocates will be addressed as “Learned Counsel/Senior Counsel” 
5. Advocates, Required Persons, parties in person and other participants shall keep their microphones muted till they are called upon to make submissions. 
6. Remote Users shall ensure that their devices are free from malware. 
7. Remote Users and the Coordinator at the Remote Point shall ensure that the Remote Point is situated in a quiet location, is properly secured and has sufficient internet coverage. Any unwarranted disturbance caused during video conferencing may if the Presiding Judge so directs render the proceedings non-est. 
8. All participants’ cell phones shall remain switched off or in aeroplane mode during the proceedings. 
9. All participants should endeavour to look into the camera, remain attentive and not engage in any other activity during the proceedings./ILNS/SS/SNG/

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