Digital shift in legal proceedings

Digital shift in legal proceedings

Date : 11 Sep, 2020

Post By Kumkum Sharma

The world has gone indoors for the past three months because of the continuing battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. Governments across the world are on their toes trying to search out a long-term solution to the current public health crisis, while simultaneously trying to tackle humanitarian and economic crises. Judiciary, a key pillar of democracy, too has taken a hit and its functions are crippled. it's now that technology can play a key role to help in resume judicial operations. This lockdown period is often utilized by the Judiciary of India as a chance to possess a more developed court system and upgrade the utilization of technology within the judiciary. one of the ways for releasing some burden off the courts is fixing virtual courts.

What is ‘virtual court’?

As the name suggests Virtual courts are courts that use a remote working system with the help Of several software and tools. The aim is to eliminate the need for the human presence within the court so that the adjudication of cases doesn’t get delayed because of the unavailability of the litigant or the client or the court staff. E-courts are quite a subset to virtual courts, as they ask the websites, and components wont to assist the functioning of virtual courts. The websites, mobile applications, and various other software used for the computerization of the system are often said to be A portion of e-courts. Legally, the digital shift has already got a stamp of approval from the Supreme Court on many occasions. within the Maharashtra Vs Dr Praful B Desai case, the Supreme Court considered recording of evidence within the criminal trial as per Section 273 of the CrPC. In Swaprul Tripathi vs Supreme Court of India also, the apex court considered live-streaming of court proceedings and open court hearings.

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On 26th July 2019, Delhi’s first virtual court was launched at the Tis Hazari Court. then, On 17th August 2019, the Punjab and Haryana high court introduced the virtual court at Faridabad, and therefore the court deals in traffic challan cases of Haryana. This project was launched by the guidance of the e-committee of the Supreme Court of India. The procedure followed here is easy and convenient. The case comes on to the Virtual Court which is presided by a Metropolitan Magistrate. Then, a summon is generated, and therefore the same is notified to the accused via email or SMS. Then the accused can attend the web site and if he pleads guilty, then the fine amount is going to be displayed. Once the payment of the fine is formed, the case will automatically be disposed of. just in case the accused wants to contest the traffic challan, then the case is going to be addressed by the Regular court, as per the territorial jurisdiction.

The procedure aids to expedite the disposal of cases, especially in cases where the accused earlier had to travel to the court even for pleading guilty. This process also helps in reducing the footfall of the court.

Key Steps towards digital shifts

  1. The project was launched supported the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of data and Communication Technology(ICT) within the Indian Judiciary-2005” which was submitted by the e-committee of SC of India. The vision behind this plan is to bring technological advancements within the working of Courts. The proposed activities of this project were divided into 2 phases:

  1. Phase-1 of this project, (which started in 2007) the most aim was to initiate the implementation of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) within the judiciary. This was done by providing courts with facilities like computers, working internet connection via LAN (Local Area Network), and required software and hardware (like printers, scanner, etc).

Apart from this, the judges were given laptops with the web, digital signatures were introduced and district court websites were made functional. Through these websites, citizens could check the status of their case, daily order sheets, and final orders too.

  1. Phase-2 was enacted with the assistance and cooperation of the e-Committee, NIC, the DoJ (Department of Justice), DietY, and therefore the Ministry of Finance. The infrastructural model was changed and computerization was wiped out the offices of DLSA (Delhi Legal Services Authority), NJA (National Judicial Academy), SJA (State Judicial Academy), and Taluka Legal Service Committee.

A common software platform referred to as CIS (Case Information Software) has also been created, with which all the court data are going to be uploaded including the past cases. Video conferencing facilities in courts and jails are in their final stages.

Mobile applications like eCourt services for District and Taluka courts, Justis Mobile App for judicial officers have also been made. Phase 2 accomplishments also include websites like e-Filing through which citizens can file their case from home, check real-time case status, make court fee payments via ePay facility. By the end of Phase 2, there'll be discontinuation of manual registers, the introduction of a cloud-based system for all court-related work, and digitalization of all cases, whether pending or decided.

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Recent Developments

  1. Current CJI SA Bobde held a gathering on 15th March 2020, where he discussed the implementation of Video conferencing in Courts, to avoid any sort of gathering in Court. This step was aimed to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, and minimize its impact on the functioning of the judiciary in our country.

  2. The Apex Court and every one High Courts resorted to virtual courtrooms, arguing that physical hearings aren't necessary for meeting the constitutional stipulation of “open” courts. Now, with 100 Mbps Internet speed, advocates are appearing working from home on virtual screens, and some important cases are heard. The Supreme Court uses email and messaging services for filing matters and conducting business.

  3.  On April 16, 2020, the Supreme Court passed a seven-page order explaining the rationale for moving online: “The Supreme Court of India and each one High Courts are authorized to adopt measures required to verify the robust functioning of the judiciary through the use of video conferencing technologies; and consistent with the peculiarities of the judiciary in every state and thus the dynamically developing public health situation, every supreme court is permitted to figure out the modalities which are suitable to the temporary transition to the use of video conferencing technologies.” District courts to are directed to manoeuvre to virtual courts.

  4. To plug social distancing, and eliminate the necessity of counsels to be present in court, Justice DY Chandrachud who is that the chairman of the E-committee of SC announced that e-filing has been made available 24/7, and court proceedings shall happen via video conferencing.

  5. A community acknowledged during the First International Forum on Online Courts in December 2018, with 300 people from 26 countries, has grown into Remote Courts Worldwide. it's noted digital courts in some form are operational in five continents, and full return to offline could even be difficult.


Conclusion

Access to justice is one of the foremost and essential features of democracy. The adoption of recent technology would help in addressing the matter of accessibility to justice and further envisages that online courts facilitate courts to function as a ‘service’, and not a ‘place’.

The ease with which the rapid migration to online platforms has been taking place across the earth shows this is often an ideal time for India also to inaugurate electronic filing of cases, applications, and pleadings with a synopsis of arguments, law, and precedents relied upon as a parallel measure. Even trial courts can explore the concept of getting evidence filed electronically and remote cross-examination through video calls. But, before embracing an entire or substantial virtual hearing protocol, bar and bench committees got to be constituted at the supreme court also because of the district level to discuss the available infrastructure. there is no second opinion that online courtrooms will improve accessibility, reduce pendency of cases, and have a positive impact on the environment.

‘Access to justice’ encompasses a spread of aspects which also include ensuring everyone who seeks justice must tend the minimum cost factor to approach a court of justice and time for disposal of the cases.

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