Context: In the backdrop of COVID-19 imposed lockdown, and with conventional courts complying to it, citizen’s access to timely justice have severely hampered, there seems an urgent need to institutionalise and eternalise technology based solutions for delivering justice.
- The complete inability of the conventional court system vis-a-vis delivering timely justice has shaken the very foundation of our constitutional promises.
- However, technology has come as a breather for the justice system.
- The Kerala High Court created history by conducting proceedings through video conferencing but also live streamed the proceedings during the lockdown.
- The judges conducted the hearing from their homes.
- Nearly 30 matters of urgent importance were taken up for hearing, including bail applications and writ petitions, and were disposed of.
- The advocates and law officers too participated in the proceedings from their respective offices.
How will e-court unfold ?
- Task force and its Responsibilities
- An Effective task force consisting of judges, technologists, court administrators, skill developers and system analysts needs to be drawn up a blueprint for institutionalising online access to justice.
- It will be responsible for establishing hardware, software and IT systems for courts.
- It will also examine application of artificial intelligence benefiting from the database generated through e-courts projects
- Also establishing appropriate e-filing systems and procedures
- Creating skill training and recognition for paralegals to understand and to help advocates and others to access the system to file their cases and add to their pleadings and documents as the case moves along.
- Trickling down of the blueprint
- After the blueprint is ready, the High Courts across the country may refer the same to the Rule Committee of the High Court to frame appropriate rules to operationalise the e-court system.
The e-Courts project was conceptualized on the basis of the “National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005” submitted by e-Committee, Supreme Court of India with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts.
- The e-Courts Mission Mode Project, is a Pan-India Project, monitored and funded by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India for the District Courts across the country.
- To provide efficient & time-bound citizen-centric services delivery as provided in the e-Court Project Litigant's Charter.
- To develop, install & implement decision support systems in courts.
- To automate the processes to provide transparency in the accessibility of information to its stakeholders.
- To enhance judicial productivity, both qualitatively & quantitatively, to make the justice delivery system affordable, accessible, cost-effective, predictable, reliable and transparent.
Case for e-courts
Case against e-courts
- Improved accessibility to court information, case details.
- Better Court Management
- Easy filing of cases
- Security of Witnesses,Reduced secondary victimisation
- Better upkeep of data for future legal resources.
- Lack of skilled techno-legal resources.
- Justice may become distant as it will be based on a digital divide.
- Lack of funding for creating such infrastructure.
- Vulnerability with regard to data security.
Catering to the larger goal of Access to Justice
- The facility must not only enable access to courts but must provide access to justice through other processes as well.
- For e.g. If we analyse the innumerable poverty alleviation and distress eradication schemes, then we will find that while these schemes look all good on paper, without implementation and accountability there is no justice to the aggrieved citizens.
- It is due to lack of awareness, information amongst the beneficiaries about these programmes, mode of application, procedure of application forms, redressal mechanisms.
- Now, if it happens that all this information is provided comprehensively at the grassroots levels and made available online even in vernacular languages, it will serve as a milestone in governance.
- Further, the Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 can come handy in resolution of problems related to accessibility.
- If there is difficulty in accessing these schemes, a system must be set in place for the applicant to lodge online complaints with the Legal Services Authorities.
- The local panchayat, municipal or corporation office, or an NGO can come to the complainant’s rescue if S(he) is unable to do so directly.
- The officers under the Legal Services Authorities Act may then be authorised to hear the complaints online and to direct delivery of redress to the aggrieved complainant in accordance with the law in a time-bound manner.
- As this is one of the ways to deliver timely access to justice, at the same time it serves another purpose of reducing burden on the conventional courts.
- So, the need of the hour is to explore the technological potential of delivering justice.
- The other forms of justice delivery like mediation, arbitration, counselling in family court matters, quick settlement of disputed insurance claims can be taken up online.
- To do so, the skilled human resource needs to be buckled up.
Image Source: Digital Kanoon