From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Lok Adalat
Mains level : Paper 2- Use of technology by judiciary
The Indian judiciary has increasingly started using technology and the change is reflected in the legal profession in general as well.
Increasing use of digital technology in the judiciary
- With the digitisation of judicial records and the establishment of e-courts, significant developments had taken place in 2020.
- Use of technology to better utilise potential: It is imperative that the use of digital technology be discussed to better utilise its potential, particularly in terms of digitisation of court records, e-filing of cases and their virtual hearing, live streaming of court proceedings.
- In India, e-governance in the field of administration of justice began in the late 1990s, but it accelerated after the enactment of the Information and Technology Act, 2000.
- In the year of 2006, e-courts were launched as a part of the National e-Governance Plan (NEGP).
Digitisation of case files
- When he was the Chief Justice of Allahabad HC, Justice D Y Chandrachud had conceptualised and initiated the project to digitise approximately one crore case files in one year.
- Saving of space and preservation of old documents: This was necessary as not only was a large space required to store so many files, it was also becoming difficult to manually preserve the decades-old documents.
- Traceability: Another purpose was to ensure that these files are traceable electronically as and when required.
- It has also been observed that cases are adjourned simply because affidavits filed several years ago were not restored with the record or were not traceable.
- Once the documents are digitised and e-filed by counsels, at least the cases would not get adjourned by the courts on this account.
- Reducing the risk of missing court records: In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Abhay Raj Singh, it was held by the Supreme Court that if court records go missing and re-construction is not possible, the courts are bound to set aside the conviction.
- Saving of time: With digitisation, it will take much less time for the lower courts to transmit the records as and when called for.
- The lawyers benefit because they or their staff are no longer required to visit the reporting sections or other sections of the court to know about the status of their cases.
- This has been sought to be implemented by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court by issuing directions to ensure that e-filing of cases/petitions by state governments in all matters be made mandatory from January 1, 2022.
Scope for virtual hearing in certain cases
- Cases related to matrimonial issues and domestic violence bounced cheques, motor accident compensation referred to mediation centres and lok adalats could be included in the list of cases fit for disposal through the virtual hearing.
- The hearing of matrimonial cases through video-conferencing was approved by the Supreme Court in the matter of Krishna Veni Nagam v Harish Nagam (2017).
- The direction was short-lived and a coordinate bench of the Supreme Court in the case of Santhini v Vijaya Venkatesh (2018) referred the matter for reconsideration before a larger bench.
- Virtual hearings cannot be a substitute for physical court hearings in all cases.
- However, in appropriate cases and certain categories of cases as identified by the court administration in consultation with the members of the Bar, virtual hearing should be made mandatory.
Live streaming of cases
- In 2018, the Supreme Court allowed the live-streaming of cases of constitutional and national importance on the basis of the judgment in Swapnil Tripathi.
- Step towards transparency: The livestreaming of court proceedings is a step towards ensuring transparency and openness.
- While several reservations were expressed against it, the Gujarat HC in July 2021 became the first court in the country to livestream its proceedings.
- Its example was followed by other HCs like Karnataka, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Patna.
- Internet connectivity issues and the need for a well-equipped space where lawyers can conduct their cases are some of the major problems requiring attention.
- Political will and the support of judges and lawyers are also necessary.
- Awareness and training: Judges, court staff and lawyers are not well-versed with digital technology and its benefits.
- The need of the hour is for them to be made aware of these and receive adequate training.
Adoption of technology will bring drastic changes in the field of law and will transform the Court system.