Bombay High Court directs Maharashtra to set up video recording facilities for SC-ST proceedings

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday ruled that all proceedings, including judicial hearing of cases related to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, have to be video recorded.

The bench of Chief Justice DK Upadhyaya and Justice Sarang Kotwal, in a 31-page order, said, “We are inclined to hold that Section 15-A(10) of the Atrocities Act is mandatory and not directory.”

The bench further added, “We direct the state government to provide the facility of video recording in all the courts in Maharashtra wherever the proceedings under the Atrocities Act are to be taken up. This shall be done at the earliest. However, till the time such facilities are provided, the courts where the facilities are not provided, may proceed without video recording the proceedings especially when the personal liberty of an accused is at stake.”

Section 15-A (10) of the Act states “All proceedings relating to offences under this Act shall be video recorded”.

However, in August 2019, the bench of Justice Sadhana Jadhav referred the matter to the division bench for adjudication on the question of what construes as proceedings as mentioned in the Act.

The issue was raised during the hearing in bail pleas of three doctors – Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal – accused of abetting the suicide of their junior, Dr Payal Tadvi, in 2019.

The latest judgment clarified that ‘proceedings’ under Section 15-A(10) of the Atrocities Act would cover all proceedings including a ‘judicial proceeding’.

“It would be necessary to video record any proceeding relating to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act even though the proceedings are held in open court,” the bench said.

The bench noted that video recording of the proceedings relating to the offences under the Atrocities Act would certainly ensure public accountability in respect of those proceedings.

“This will ensure that victims and witnesses have adequate briefing on the case and preparation for trial. The information would be available to the organizations and individuals who are providing legal aid to the victim and their dependents,” the bench said.

In many cases, the victims may not be fully aware of the legal procedures or their implications and, thus, in that case the video recording would facilitate all those who can help the victim to understand the nature of proceedings and details of the facts and the legal aspects of those cases, it added.

Published By:

Rishabh Sharma

Published On:

Mar 14, 2024

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