The Indian judiciary has increasingly started using technology and the change is reflected in the legal profession in general as well. Some significant developments had taken place before the Covid –19 crisis in 2020, with the digitisation of judicial records and establishing of e-courts. Hence, 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.
How digitisation can ensure speedy and efficient delivery of Justice.
- Electronic filing (e-filing) of cases has numerous benefits. It reduces burden of travel faced by litigants and members of the Bar, providing comfort of filing them from homes or offices.
- E-filing also makes it accessible to those with visual disabilities, as they may now be able to access them through screen reading software.
- E-filing has multiple benefits for the judiciary as well, since they can access documents on their laptops and will not have to rely on physical files.
- E-filing also help in operation of smooth hearings in courts. If both lawyer and judges are using the same e-file, it makes hearings more efficient as navigation through documents becomes easier.
- Saving space and preserving old papers: This was important since not only did storing so many files need a lot of space, but it was also becoming impossible to manually maintain the decades-old records.
- Another goal was to make sure that these data could be traced electronically if and when they were needed.
- Reduce the danger of missing court documents: The Supreme Court declared in State of Uttar Pradesh v. Abhay Raj Singh that if court records go missing and re-construction is impossible, the courts must throw aside the conviction.
- Time savings: Because of digitisation, it will take significantly less time for subordinate courts to submit records as and when they are requested.
- Lawyers profit since they or their employees are no longer obliged to attend the court’s reporting section or other sections to find out how their cases are progressing.
- Cases have also been deferred merely because affidavits made some years ago were not restored with the record or could not be traced.
- At the very least, once the documents are digitised and e-filed by counsel, the cases will not be postponed by the courts on this basis.
- Some of the primary concerns that need to be addressed are internet connectivity challenges and the requirement for a well-equipped place where lawyers may conduct their cases.
- Political will, as well as the cooperation of judges and attorneys, are required.
- Judges, court workers, and attorneys are unfamiliar with digital technology and its benefits.
- The requirement of the hour is for them to be made aware of these and get sufficient training.
- Frequent Performance Audits: Performance audits and sandboxing procedures (isolated test environment) would be required to properly comprehend and assess the possibilities and hazards.
- Each court must do a thorough cleansing, as well as provide cost-effective, easy, and efficient outreach to all litigants.
- Evidence-Based Rational Approach: The following step should be based on evidence-based rational thinking. For example, we need to investigate and comprehend why video conferencing in criminal cases has had no effect on the length of trials or the number of persons awaiting trial.
- Address Inequitable Digital Access: While mobile phones are commonly owned and utilised, Internet access is still restricted to urban residents.
- Deficiency in Infrastructure: An open court is a fundamental concept in the administration of justice. The issue of public access cannot be relegated to the margins; it must be addressed head-on. Access to online hearings has been limited far too often due to a lack of technological infrastructure.
How to structure
- Give a brief intro about India’s justice system
- Explain some of the problems associated with it
- Analyse how digitization can ensure speedy and efficient delivery of Justice
- Write way forward