media, information, the contemporary

Video as Evidence

Shikhar Goel

January 2019- July 2021

I worked as a M.S. Merian – R. Tagore International Centre of Advanced Studies ‘Metamorphoses of the Political’ (ICAS:MP) researcher in The Sarai Programme at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi (CSDS) from January 2019 to July 2021. I joined the research program as an intern while finishing my final semester as a MA student at the School of Law, Governance, and Citizenship at Ambedkar University, Delhi. My first few months at Sarai was crucial in figuring out a project idea for the law and media module of ICAS:MP (TM7) and writing my MA thesis on the topic of Evacuee Property Law, which was later published as a peer-reviewed article “Tales of Restoration: A Study of the Evacuee Property Laws” in the journal Studies in History. As this field of study required a training in media studies in addition to legal scholarship, I spent the initial phase as a researcher familiarising myself with debates pertaining to the intersections of law and media in South Asia, including subjects such as copyright law, hate speech, free speech, sedition law, media trial, censorship, and social media regulation.

During my time as a TM7 researcher at Sarai, I drew energies from the existing scholarship in various fields and focused on tracing the life of new media objects as evidence in Indian jurisprudence. I started tracing this life by reading old newspaper articles, watching YouTube videos, and reading judgments coming out of various trial and appellate courts in India. The questions that emerged from reading the case law and engaging with the popular discourse prompted me to undertake ethnographic fieldwork in the trial courts of Delhi. Apart from witnessing trial proceedings in these courts, I also interviewed practising lawyers, sitting judges, and law clerks. You will find a sample of this research in the diaries published here. Some of the research done during this undertaking also fueled a forthcoming paper, tentatively titled, “Evidentiary Anecdotes: Video in Indian Courts,” in the journal South Asia: Journal for South Asian Studies which is under revision after being peer-reviewed.

As my work in Delhi was severely disrupted by a series of COVID-19 lockdowns and devastating COVID-19 waves, I decided to leave Sarai and ICAS:MP and move to New York in August 2021 to enrol in a doctoral programme at the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. Through my coursework at the university, I continue working towards a Ph.D. project in the domain of law and media by building on the lines of inquiry that emerged during the time I spent with the fantastic ICAS:MP team working at Sarai.

Peer-Reviewed Articles:​

“Internet Shutdowns: Strategy to Maintain Law and Order or Muzzle Dissent?” Economic and Political Weekly 53, no. 42 (October 20, 2018).

“Tales of Restoration: A Study of the Evacuee Property Laws.” Studies in History 36, no. 2 (2020): 251–79.

​“Evidentiary Anecdotes: Video in Indian Courts.” South Asia: Journal for South Asian Studies (2022) [Submitted, under revision after peer review].

Research Collections

This archive was built between February 2021 and August 2022 and supported by the collaboration between The Sarai Program at CSDS and ICAS: MP on thematic module 7 entitled, ‘Media and the Constitution of the Political’. This project details how truth-telling is transformed after widespread media proliferation with a focus on public commissions of inquiry into the Northeast Delhi Riots in 2020. The project seeks to understand the nature of political, humanitarian, and legal claims made in the presentation of witness speech and evidence; how to assess the temporality of the report in negotiating these often-competing claims; and what the handling of media evidence discloses about the politics of caution, care, and self-care. In detailing how investigations assemble evidence and articulate the evidentiary value of media, special attention is given to practices associated with open-source investigations, online publication and archiving, and the management of risk associated with such human rights media work. Research collections include fact-finding reports and books, documentary films, collections of film and photo documentation, news reports, web archives, and social media threads.