Courts Introduce Video Conferencing to Accelerate Proceedings
“Time and resources are of essence in the process of justice delivery in any crime. When it is a crime of untold suffering to the victim, like human trafficking, delays will have a cascading and perennial adverse impact on the victim, family and even care givers. Hence, any effort to expedite the process of justice delivery, cut down the costs, resources and time, will indeed be a great step in the process of victim care and protection” said Justice Manjula Chellur, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Bombay, at the ‘Workshop to Finalize Standard Operating Procedures for Trans-border Transfer of Evidence in Trafficking Crimes: Through Video Conferencing’ at the Maharashtra Judicial Academy on 18 November 2017. Justice Chellur commended the creation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).Victims of human trafficking, often having received devastating trauma from their experiences of being trafficked, face a herculean challenge to present themselves in court to testify against the accused. If victims are from beyond the borders, they are repatriated or restored to their home country. When victims are summoned to testify in court- often years later, they frequently refuse to participate in the proceedings. This refusal can be for a number of reasons; the victims may have married, they might now have children to care for, they may have a job which they are unable to leave, they may not be able to face the ordeal of returning to the place or country in which they were abused, they may not have the capacity to relive the trauma again and they may not want to face their abuser again.
With these reasons in mind Dr. P.M. Nair from Tata Institute of Social Sciences consulted with Maharashtra State Legal Services, IJM and other organisations, in September 2017 and began drafting an SOP on the inter jurisdictional transfer of evidence in trafficking crimes through video conferencing.
“This SOP will be the first-of its-kind in streamlining the trans-border systems and institutionalising the best practices that emerged from the experiences of concerned stakeholders. This will help stakeholders conduct video conferences across the borders of states and national boundaries, not only in human trafficking crimes but other crimes as well”, said Dr. P. M. Nair.
Through the workshop, procedures for video conferencing as a way of recording evidence in trials were standardised for courts across the country. In order to ensure widespread distribution of the booklets, the Chief Justice’s office directed the Maharashtra State Legal Services to distribute copies of the booklet to High Court registrars across India. These booklets have since provided standard procedures for all Courts that may use video conferencing to record evidence of a witness.