The Legality of In Camera Trials

“Victims should be treated with compassion and respect for their dignity. They are entitled to the mechanisms of justice and to prompt redress, as provided for by national legislation, for the harm they have suffered”[1] The law suits in general, and criminal trials in particular, are required to be heard in public is a standard that has been observed in legal systems of very different eras and types. With the arrival of first, the print media and then, radio and television the means came into existence for conveying the trial events to a much larger audience than could be accommodated in the courtroom itself.

Yet, whatever the extent and nature of the coverage; the norm that trials are open to the public needs to be examined carefully. Equally, the general rule is subject to a range of exceptions. Sometimes, as with matters of national security, the exception is justified on the basis of considerations extraneous to the trial itself. More often, the reason for departure from the standard of open justice is to be found within court procedure themselves. Many witnesses, for example, feel daunted by the prospect of testifying in public.

Here it is open justice itself that is, at least in part, responsible for creating the difficulties, and there is consequently reason for considering departure from the ideal. The word, in camera has not been used in the code of criminal procedure. This research paper aspires to examine the general rule that governs the criminal law with regard to trials and the exception that arises out of this. The possible tussle between the media and the courts has been looked at and the situations in which an in camera trial should be invoked have also been established.

The aim of this project is to understand and study the principle of in camera trial with the objective of being able to distinguish between open court trials and in camera trials along with the impact of the media on the same. Scope and Limitations: The scope of this project is restricted only the in camera trial in detail. The researcher has not gone into an in-depth study of the trial by media and the general rule of open court trial. Sources of Data: The researcher has relied on secondary sources of data for writing this paper. Research Questions: 1. What do you mean by open court as a right and a general rule?

2. In camera trial – what are the justifications for this exception? What are the counter arguments if any? 3. Trial by media v. In Camera Trial – violation of right to privacy or violation of freedom of speech and expression of the media? 4. Cases where the exceptions to open court can be invoked? 5. What are the possible measures that the court can take to see that the media and in camera trial – the two extreme exceptions to open court live in harmony? Mode of Citation: A uniform mode of citation has been followed as far as possible.

The principle of open justice is at the cornerstone of our justice system. It is not merely of some importance but it is of fundamental importance, that justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done. [2] Article 14 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights read, “All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent tribunal established by law”

An open justice system tends to encourage witnesses as to the seriousness of the proceedings; it promotes the veracity of evidence; it may elicit unexpected depositions from people in the audience; it promotes public discussion in relation to judicial proceedings; it promotes public discussion in relation to judicial proceedings; it promotes the integrity of judges; it promotes and maintains public confidence in the judicial process; it ensures fair outcomes arrived at by fair procedures; it distinguishes judicial activities from those of administrative officials and it promotes the appropriate conduct of legal representatives.

[3] In the literal sense, the term ‘open court’ connotes a trial in which all of the public have a right of admission, but, as a matter of fact, the public actually present constitutes a small number of citizens who arrive before the court room’s limited facilities are exhausted. It is taken that the public need not be admitted beyond the court room’s normal capacity. There is further agreement on the proposition that members of the public who misconduct themselves in such manner as to obstruct the orderly procedure of the trial may be removed.

Without this much discretion the trial judge would often be unable even to attempt to conduct a trial. The courts have gone one step further and, when the testimony is likely to be obscene, a portion or certain classes of the public may be excluded. Here the argument stops and question cannot be lightly answered as to how many members of the public must be present and how this number should be selected. This is purely the discretion of the courts.

The Judge may allow only that number of the members of the public which the courthouse can accommodate. The open court or trial comprises the following presumptive elements:[4] 1. The provision of adequate facilities for the attendance of member of the public at the trial. 2. A derivative aspect which guarantees the right of those in attendance namely, the representatives of the media – to report the proceedings to those who either could not gain admission to the trial or were simply inclined to attend. 3.

When documents have come into existence for the purposes of the trial – by way of pleadings, for example – these should presumptively be available for inspection by any member of the public. 4. The names should be openly available of the personnel of the trial: the accused, judge and witnesses. 5. The trial is to take place in the presence of the accused. 6. The accused is presumptively entitled to confront his accusers. Indian laws Section 327 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides for trial in the open court.

The section reads: (1) The place in which any Criminal Court is held for the purpose of inquiring into or trying any offence shall be deemed to be an open court, to which the public generally may have access, so far as the same can conveniently contain them: Provided that the presiding Judge or Magistrate may, if he thinks fit, order at any stage of any inquiry into, or trial of, any particular case, that the public generally, or any particular person, shall not have access to, or be or remain in, the room or building used by the Court.

”[5] Lack of space in the court-house may justify a judge or a magistrate in admitting only a limited number of members of the public in the interests of public health and hygiene. [6] So too, when indecent and obscene matters have to be canvassed during a trial, judges and magistrates in India may well have a discretion to exclude women, children and others likely to be injuriously affected by hearing those matters.

[7] The language of section 327 clearly presupposes the power in the presiding judge or magistrate trying a criminal case to decide on the venue of the trial. The section has been interpreted to give discretion for the judge to hold his court in a suitable building, public or private, other than his court-house but unconnected with the parties to the proceedings, in case of emergency.

If the conveyance of prisoners and the accused to and from the court-house or other buildings, will be attended with serious danger of attack, and the rescue of the accused or the prisoners would be done only with a heavy cost to Government in providing an armed escort, it is within the powers of the judge or magistrate after due consideration of the public interests and after writing down the reasons in each case, to hold the trials even inside the jail premises, where the accused are confined, provided that the offences tried aer not connected with those premises, and there is no apprehension therefore it the minds of he accused that they may not get a fair trial.