Video Conferencing in Indian Courts?

This is an interesting question; is video conferencing allowed in Indian Courts? Can a witness testify by way of video conferencing and does such a testimony have similar weight as a physical testimony of the witness?

As per section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, evidence is defined as –

“Evidence” means and includes—

(1) all statements which the Court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses, in relation to matters of fact under inquiry, such statements are called oral evidence;

(2) all documents including electronic records produced for the inspection of the Court, such documents are called documentary evidence.

 

Therefore, for providing oral evidences (ie. Testimony of a witness), the requirement of the act is that the court requires it to be made before it. Hence, these oral evidences can be made ‘before’ the court also by way of video conference or any other electronic means.

The High Court of Calcutta in the judgement Amitabh Bagchi vs Ena Bagchi provided a list of 14 safeguards to be employed for conducting video conferencing, which are:

  1. Before action of the witness under Audio-Video Link starts the witness will have to file an affidavit or an undertaking duly verified before a Judge or a Magistrate or a Notary that the person who is shown as the witness is the same person as who is going to depose on the screen with a copy of such identification affidavit to the other side.
  2. The person who wishes to examine the witness on the screen will also file an affidavit or an undertaking in the similar manner before examining the witness with a copy of the other side with regard to identification before hand.
  3. As soon as identification part is complete, oath will be administered through the media as per the Oaths Act, 1969 of India.
  4. The witness will be examined during working hours of Indian Courts. Plea of any inconvenience on account of time difference between India and other country will not be allowed.
  5. The witness action, as far as practicable, be proceeded without any interruption without granting unnecessary adjournments. However, discretion of the Court or the Commissioner will be respected.
  6. Witness includes parties to the proceedings.
  7. In case of non-party witness, a set of plaint, written statement and/or other papers relating to proceeding and disclosed documents should be sent to the witness for his acquaintance and an acknowledgement in this regard will be filed before the Court.
  8. Court or Commissioner must record any remark as is material regarding the demur of the witness while on the screen and shall note the objections raised during recording of witness either manually or mechanically.
  9. Depositions of the witness either in the question answer form or in the narrative form will have to sign as early as possible before a Magistrate or Notary Public and thereafter it will form part of the record of the proceedings.
  10. Mode of digital signature, if can be adopted in this process, such signature will be obtained immediately after day’s deposition.
  11. The visual is to be recorded at both the ends. The witness alone can be present at the time of video conference, Magistrate and Notary is to certify to this effect.
  12. In case of perjury Court will be able to take cognizance not only about the witness gave evidence but who induced to give such evidence.
  13. The expenses and the arrangements are to be borne by the applicant who wants to this facility.
  14. Court is empowered to put condition/s necessary for the purpose.

Hence, as seen above video conferencing is a permissible method for testimony of witnesses, including the parties of the case.

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One Response to Video Conferencing in Indian Courts?

  1. It is said that if need be the court should come to the people. There are courts held in public places as well. Then why not video conferencing. In fact all courts should have video conferencing facility.

    Also currently the Indian courts are undergoing a digital transformation. The plan given by me to the ministry of law and justice will eventually eliminate the need of any paper documents to be stored. But the way the work is progressing I can only think that this is a distant dream to achieve..may be another 10 years..

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