Mobile phones and the Supreme Court: The trigger behind the curious signboard

A curious sign board was seen planted outside the court of Chief Justice of India in the Supreme Court yesterday.

It read:

Cameras not allowed inside

Advocates carrying their mobile phones required to keep them on switch off mode

A mobile phone causing any disturbance / nuisance inside Court Room will be confiscated.

The signboard did not say anything new but only reiterated what had already been written in a circular issued by the Supreme Court in 2007.

So what was the immediate trigger for such an action?

While lawyers have never completely adhered to the 2007 direction and have always carried phone inside court rooms, the emergence of social media journalism might have something to do with yesterday’s development.

With platforms like Twitter and Facebook being available on mobile phones, lawyers have increasingly started using the same to relay court proceedings live to the outside world.

The Aadhaar hearing is one such example in which two lawyers have been tweeting the proceedings live. Further, an online legal news website and a legal news magazine employ lawyers who gain access to court rooms with mobile phones. (Only lawyers are allowed to carry mobile phones inside court rooms). Hence, wearing black and white with gown gives access to these journalists dressed as lawyers.

It is understood that journalists belonging to different media organisations raised this issue at least twice with the authorities. In a meeting with the Chief Justice of India, the issue of live tweeting of Aadhaar was raised.

Subsequently, the report of a legal news website on Judge Loya hearing which appeared to be a verbatim reproduction of the court proceedings was also objected to by certain journalists. Sources indicate that an Advocate working as a legal correspondent for a legal news website had audio recorded the entire proceedings.

It is the argument of the scribes that either nobody should be allowed to relay live proceedings or everybody should be allowed the same leeway.

Interestingly, these developments come at a time when the Delhi High Court is debating on regulating media and considering other aspects including tweeting from inside court.

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