A law student visiting Delhi wants to visit the citadel of Judicial power and legal system in India, and is weighing his options. Over to Madan, a law student from ILS, Pune and an IDIA scholar.
I am a law student and I am from Bangalore. It has been a week since I arrived in Delhi to intern with a law firm.
Of course, it is the dream of every law student to visit the Supreme Court of India at least once. Every advocate on the rolls of Bar Council would have gone through numerous judgements of the Supreme Court of India but I am sure that not all advocates in the country had the opportunity to visit the Supreme Court although all litigators dream of arguing before it one day.
In the past some colleges used to organize educational trips to the Supreme Court or High Courts. However, on account of modernisation and advent ofthe internet, relative ease of transportation and increasing number of internships, such exposure may not be necessary and students should take their own initiative to see the Supreme Court. As for me, I am not interning under any advocate who practices in the Supreme Court and I want to witness the proceedings before the court. Hence if I want to visit the Supreme Court, I will be considered a member of the general public rather than an intern of a Supreme Court lawyer who would have access to the premises for doing their work. Keeping this in mind, I set out to research the various means by which I can enter the Supreme Court of India.
Why should general public be interested or allowed to witness court proceedings?
The law belongs to the people and access to legal system is a basic right and for public good. General Public are allowed to witness the court proceedings because the Indian Constitution recognises the ‘open justice system’ where justice is delivered after hearing both the parties and on sufficient evidence before the public. This ensures –
- Fairness in trial
- Inspires public confidence in the judicial process
- Promotes and fosters democratic values in the public.
Supreme Court of India has been a champion of these principles. However, the process one needs to undergo to achieve entry into the hallowed portals of the Supreme Court are not necessarily simple.
Earlier, I guess there was not much of a security threat to symbols of democracy such as Parliament, Supreme Court or Rashtrapathi Bhavan. Hence, armed police personnel would have sufficed for purposes of security.
However, with the advent of modern technology and radical ideologies over the globe, and in light of the Parliament attack that look place some years back, security measures ensuring a sense of safety to people visiting Supreme Court is very important. In fact, in 2011 there was bomb blast in Delhi High Court premises killing over 11 persons and inuring over 70. Hence, security of the courts are taken very seriously.
Hence, a person visiting the Supreme Court has to go through the prescribed security procedure.
The office of the Registrar of Supreme Court of India is responsible for all the security measures in place for entry of visitors to Supreme Court. It follows two procedures for grant of entry passes to visitors –
- Online registration request for entry passes.
- Old procedure for entry for those who are not aware of the online process.
Online Registration request for entry passes
The Supreme Court has launched a web based initiative – http://scvms.gov.in/WebVisitorBookingNew.aspx to reduce the time taken to issue the entry passes and to lessen the inconvenience caused to the visitors.
An online request for issuing an entry pass can be made by visitor by providing his valid identity and address proof along with the details of the section of the Supreme Court to be visited and also the case details and the visitors advocate details.
Then, the request would be processed and the request has to be printed and presented to the security personnel along with the signature of the advocate and valid ID proof and has to be submitted to the visitor counter to obtain entry to the Supreme Court premises.
However, I as general public cannot access this facility as the advocate and case details are mandatory to be filled up as my purpose is not litigation but to just witness court proceedings.
Though, the Supreme Court circular on this point makes it clear that Online passes are for – Visitors (litigants and advocates) and other persons visiting the court, but in substance the online facility makes no provision for other visitors.
The Registrar’s Office would issue proximity cards for advocates who as members of Supreme Court Bar Association and Senior Advocates after they fill in the prescribed forms.
Proximity cards are also issued to any person enrolled on the rolls of any State Bar Council after they follow the prescribed procedure and submit their duly filled forms.
The advocates can also sign passes for their clients or interns to enter the court premises.
I have been thinking of requesting some advocate who might be entering the court and tell him of my problem to visit the court and perhaps enter under the guise of an intern but it did not appear appropriate to me.
Photo-entry passes or on-the spot passes
While googling, I have come across a circular of Supreme Court providing for an on-the spot entry to its premises with valid Identity and address proof for anyone wishing to enter the court premises. However, it compulsorily requires an advocate’s signature.
I plan to visit the Supreme Court in some days and try out my chance at the on-spot entry passes. I found on enquiry that it is necessary that an advocate must authorise my visit or else I cannot attend. I hope while researching my options I made some mistake, because if Indian citizens cannot visit the Supreme court unless they are litigating there – a big opportunity to sensitize Indian people about the legal system that governs them is lost.
There no reason why general public should not be allowed to get online entry passes to visit the apex court of one’s country. Any citizen of India wanting to see the highest seat of judicial power need not have approval of any advocate to do that. I do not intend that Supreme Court should be turned into a tourist place but I mean that any person with a bona fide interest to educate himself of the judicial process in the highest court must not be subject to handicap such as requiring some stranger’s signature for visiting the court even after providing valid proof of person and residence.
I hope my visit to the apex court would be sweet and smooth without any friction with the security personnel. However, throughout writing this article I have wondered as to how journalists gain entry to the court? May be they will flash their press cards. But what can I flash other than my voter ID card?