The Role of Video Conferencing in India under Criminal Justice Administration

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Introduction

A video conference is a set an interactive telecommunication technologies which allow two or more location to interact via two-way video and audio transmissions simultaneously. It has been called visual collaboration and is a type of groupware. Video conferencing is an arrangement in which television linked to telephone lines are used to enable a group of persons to communicate with each other in sound and vision. Video conferencing allows a number of people to communicate in real time, no matter where they are located. Using audio and video transmission, the parties will be able to discuss conference and compare chart. The role of video conferencing technology is a becoming more prevalent in today’s courtrooms. This is the age of advancement of technology. Video conferencing systems are used to enable testifying witnesses to appear in court without having to travel to the courtroom. In criminal cases experts like doctors, laboratory scientist, criminalist certifying scientist, technical specialist or forensic experts are summoned to give evidence in court. Video conferencing is a facility by which evidence can be recorded while judge and witnesses are sitting at different places.

Historical Perspective

Video conferencing uses telecommunication of audio and video to bring people at different sites together for a meeting. This can be as simple as a conversation between two people in private office or involve several sites with more than one person in large rooms at different sites. During the first manned space flights, NASA used two radio frequency (UHF or VHF) links, one is each direction. TV channels routinely use this kind of video conferencing when reporting from distant locations, for instance. Then mobile links to satellites using specially equipped trucks becomes rather common.

This technique was very expensive, though, and could not be used for more mundane application, such as telemedicine, distance education, business meetings. The digital telephony transmission networks become possible, such as ISDN, assuring a minimum bite for compressed video. The first dedicated system, such as those manufactured by pioneering VTC firms. Video teleconference systems throughout the 1990s rapidly evolved from highly expensive proprietary equipment, software and network requirements to standards based technology that is readily available to general public at reasonable cost. Finally, in 1990s, IP (Internet protocol) based video conferencing become possible, and more efficient video compression technologies were developed, permitting desktop, or personal computer based video conferencing. In 1992 CU-seeME was developed at Cornell by Tim Dorcey et al, IVS was designed at INRIA, VTC arrived to the masses and free services, web plugins and software, such as Net Meeting, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, Skype and others brought cheap, albeit low-quality,VTC.

Technological Perspective of Video Conferencing

Video conferencing comes under “electronic records” means data, records or data generated, image or sound stored, received or sent in an electronic form or micro film or computer generated micro fiche.

The core technology used in video teleconference system (VTC) is digital compression of audio and video stream in real time. The components required for a video teleconference system include:

  • Video input: video camera or webcam.
  • Video output: computer monitor, television or projector.
  • Audio input: microphone.
  • Audio output: usually loudspeakers associated with the display device or telephone.
  • Data transfer: analog or digital telephone network, LAN or internet.

There are basically two kinds of video teleconference system:

  1. Dedicated system: Dedicated system have all required components packaged into a single piece of equipment, usually a consol with a high quality remote controlled video camera. These cameras can be controlled as a distance to pan left and right, till up and down, and zoom. They become known as PTZ cameras.
  2. Desktop systems: Desktop systems are add-ons to normal PCs, transforming them into video teleconference system devices. A range of different camera and microphones can be used with board, which contains the necessary code and transmission interfaces. Most of desktop systems work the H. 323 standard. Video conferencing carried out via dispersed PCs are also known as e-meetings.

Video Conferencing and Criminal Justice Administration

Video conferencing can be used in host of different environments, which is one of the reason the technology is so popular. In present scenario video conferencing played very important role in criminal justice administration. This is the age of advancement of technology. Information technology has invaded courtroom also. Technology based evidence is produced in court and are accepted also. Video conferencing has expended the ways of examining witnesses. Physical presence of witness is no more necessary. Witness sitting in a remote place can be examined in court. This technology is being increasingly used in civil, criminal, matrimonial and administrative matters. In criminal case, unless good cause is shown the video conferencing can be used in:

  • Initial appearance.
  • Jurisdictional matters.
  • Motion for adjournment of cases.
  • Hearing of bail.
  • Where accused pleads guilty or asks for trial.
  • Where prisoner is in jail and physical presence is not necessary or not possible due to shortage of any reasons.
  • Remand cases.

In Kalyan Chand Sarkar vs. Pappu Yadav case Supreme Court has held that accused be shifted to jail outside Bihar and trial may take place through video conferencing. In Amitabh Bagchi vs. Ena Bagchi. The Calcutta High Court held that the husband and wife who were residing outside country can give evidence in matter pending in West Bengal by means of video conferencing. In Alcatel India Ltd. Vs. Koshika Telecom Ltd,where witness are suffering from serious asthama the court permitted give evidence through video conferencing. In instant case the Hon’ble court about uses and advantages of video conferencing.

Legal Position

At present there are no legal provisions for video conferencing. Some of the High Courts and Supreme Court have permitted use of this technology in certain matters. But there must be specific law for the same. In this regards the courts discussed about the uses and advantages of video conferencing. Creative interpretation had been resorted to by court so as to achieve a balance between the age old and rigid laws on one hand and advanced technology, on other. In Commissioner of Income Tax, Bombay Vs. M/S Podar Cement Pvt. Ltd, they were also cited with approval in case of State Vs. S.J. Chowdhary. In this case court held that the evidence Act was an ongoing Act and the word “handwriting” was construed to include “typewriting”. In Basavaraj R. Patil v. State of Karnataka case the question was whether an accused needs to be physically present in court to answer the questions put to him by court whilst recording his statement under section 313. It has been held by the majority that the section had to be considered in light of the revolutionary changes in technology of communication and transmission and the marked improvement in facilities for legal aid in the country. It was held by the majority, that it was not necessary that in all cases the accused must answer by personally remaining present in court. Thus the law is well settled. The doctrine “contemoranea expositio est optimaet fortissimm” has no application when interpreting a provision of an on-going statute like the Criminal Procedure Code.

  • In every inquiry or trial, for the purpose of enabling the accused personally to explain any circumstances appearing in the evidence against him, the Court:

(a) may at any stage, without previously warning the accused, put such questions to him as the Court considers necessary;

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(b) shall, after the witnesses for the prosecution have been examined and before he is called on for his defence, question him generally on the case: Provided that in a summons- case, where the Court has dispensed with the personal attendance of the accused, it may also dispense with his examination under clause (b).

  • No oath shall be administered to the accused when he is examined under sub- section (1).
  • The accused shall not render himself liable to punishment by refusing to answer such questions, or by giving false answers to them.
  • The answers given by the accused may be taken into consideration in such inquiry or trial, and put in evidence for or against him in any other inquiry into, or trial for, any other offence which such answers may tend to show he has committed.

In Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation v. NRI Film Production Association (P) Ltd., and Amitabh Bagachi v. Ena Bagchi held that that recording of evidence through video conferencing is permissible in law, provided that necessary precaution must be taken. In a case the petitioner was the original complainant. and she had lodged a complaint alleging offence punishable under section 366,376,388 of Indian Penal Code,1860 and section 65,66,67 of Information Technology Act,2000 against the respondent. The court accepted the request of the petitioner for recording of evidence through video conferencing of the witnesses. In Mumbai blast case the court directed the state to make arrangement for video conferencing, so that terrorist Kasab can see the court proceedings and hear the arguments.

Video Conferencing and Indian Law

In Indian courts evidence is recorded under the provision of Indian Evidence Act,1872, under section 230 to 234 and 284 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and section 30 and 77 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1908. There are several other minor provisions which deal with the recording of evidence under Cr.P.C. and other minor Acts. Generally evidence is recorded by summoning the witness to court but section 77 of C.P.C. and section 284 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1908, 1908 are exception to the general rule where the witness can be examined by commissioners appointed by court. Still there is no specific provision which permits video conferencing of evidence.

Video Conferencing and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1908

The following provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 applied in the procedure of video conferencing

  • Procedure when investigation cannot be completed in twenty-four hours
  • Date of prosecution evidence
  • Evidence for prosecution
  • Acquittal
  • Entering upon evidence
  • Argument
  • Evidence to be taken in the presence of accused
  • Record in summons-cases and inquiries
  • Record in trial before court of session
  • Commission to whom to be issued
  • Execution of commission
  • Parties may examine the accused
  • Return of commission
  • Adjournment of proceeding
  • Court to be open

Video Conferencing and Indian Evidence Act, 1872

The following provisions of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 applied in the procedure of video conferencing:

  • Special provisions as to evidence relating to electronic records
  • Admissibility of electronic record
  • Presumption as to electronic records
  • Presumption as to electronic records and digital signature
  • Presumption as to digital signature certificate
  • Presumption as to electronic message
  • Presumption as to electronic records five year old

Video Conferencing and Indian Penal Code, 1860

The following provisions of Indian Penal Code 1860 are applied in the procedure of video conferencing:

  • Assault or criminal force to woman with intention to outrage her modesty
  • Rape
  • Punishment of rape
  • Unnatural offence

Video conferencing and Information Technology Act, 2000

The following provisions of Information Technology Act, 2000 are applied in the procedure of video conferencing:

  • Electronic records
  • Authentication of electronic records
  • Legal recognition of electronic records
  • Use of electronic recodes and digital signature in government and its agencies
  • Retention of electronic records
  • Attribution of electronic records

Conclusion

The introduction of videoconferencing in criminal proceedings clearly has advantages. As regards witnesses, think for example of the protection of vulnerable witnesses or witnesses who, due to the large distance or otherwise, cannot be heard or only with great difficulty. There are also advantages in terms of costs savings and efficiency benefits with respect to the administration of justice, mainly as a result of decreasing movement of defendants and hearing defendants residing abroad. The technical possibilities seem limitless, but caution is required. In view of the increasing use of videoconferencing, it is very important that, when training judges, Public Prosecutors and lawyers, there is also attention to the use of videoconferencing in legal practice. This also applies to being able to assess critically the quality of the assistance offered by an interpreter.

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