Supreme Court’s View On Video Conferencing
Som Prakash Vs State Of Delhi 1974 Cri. LJ 784
In this case Supreme Court has rightly observed that “in our technological age nothing more primitive can be conceived of than denying discoveries and nothing cruder can retard forensic efficiency than swearing by traditional oral evidence only thereby discouraging the liberal use of scientific aids to prove guilt.” Statutory changes are needed to develop more fully a problem solving approach to criminal trials and to deal with heavy workload on the investigators and judges.
SIL Import, USA V Exim Aides Exporters, Bangalore (1999) 4 SCC 567
In yet another decision in which use of available technology has been given a real boost, the Supreme Court held that “Technological advancement like fascimile, Internet, e-mail, etc. were in swift progress even before the Bill for the Amendment Act was discussed by Parliament. So when Parliament contemplated notice in writing to be given we cannot overlook the fact that Parliament was aware of modern devices and equipment already in vogue.”
Grid Corpn. Of Orissa Ltd. V. AES Corpn. 2002 AIR (SC) 3435
In this the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of technology and it held that “When an effective consultation can be achieved by resort to electronic media and remote conferencing it is not necessary that the two persons required to act in consultation with each other must necessarily sit together at one place unless it is the requirement of law or of the ruling contract between the parties.” In this case the contention was that the two arbitrators appointed by the parties should have met in person to appoint the third arbitrator.
State of Maharashtra V. Dr. Praful B Desai (2003) 4 SCC 601
The Supreme Court held that video-conferencing could be resorted to for the purpose of taking evidence of a witness. In that case, one party was seeking direction of the court to take evidence of a witness residing in the United States of America. Though a lower court had ordered such evidence to be taken with the help of video-conferencing, the concerned High Court struck down that order on the grounds that the law required the evidence to be taken in the presence of the accused. The Appeal Bench of the High Court upheld the said latter order. The Supreme Court struck down the High Court order by stating that recording of evidence satisfies the object of Section 273 of the Code of Civil Procedure that evidence be recorded in the presence of the accused. In explaining the benefits of video-conferencing, the Court observed that “In fact the Accused may be able to see the witness better than he may have been able to if he was sitting in the dock in a crowded Court room. They can observe his or her demeanour. In fact the facility to play back would enable better observation of demeanour. They can hear and rehear the deposition of the witness.” Addressing the various submissions made before it, the Court stated that “Virtual reality is a state where one is made to feel, hear or imagine what does not really exist. Video-conferencing has nothing to do with virtual reality. The Supreme Court also laid down the procedure to be followed when recording evidence through video conferencing. The accused and his legal counsel should be present for video conference. The accused should be permitted to cross-examine the witness and place documents before the witness. An officer deputed from the Indian Embassy or Consulate, or directly from India, should be present with the witness in the foreign country during the video conferencing. This officer should administer oath to the witness and should ensure that the witness is not being tutored or prompted whilst evidence is being recorded. There should be nobody, apart from the witness and the deputed officer. The evidence of the witness should be recorded in the Indian Embassy if possible. If the officer finds that witness is not answering questions, the officer should make a memo to this affect. The Court should take this fact into consideration when determining the veracity of the evidence.