- Introduction suiting the context of the question.
- Significance of digitization in judicial administration.
- Delineate the current scenario of digital justice.
In the book ‘Online Courts and the Future of Justice’ it is held that technology will bring drastic changes in the field of law and transform the Court system. The Indian judiciary has increasingly started using technology, and this change is reflected in the legal profession as well with the digitization of court records, e-filing of cases, their virtual hearing, and live streaming of court proceedings.
In India, e-governance in the field of justice administration began in the late 1990s, but accelerated after the enactment of the Information & Technology Act 2000. In 2006, e-Courts were launched as part of the National e-Governance Plan. In this regard, Allahabad High Court is a guiding example wherein Justice Chandrachud conceptualized and initiated the project to digitize approx. 1 crore case files in 1 year.
Why the need to go digital?:
- Large space required to store so many files. Also, it is manually difficult to preserve decades-old documents.
- Ensure electronic traceability as and when required, since the consequences of missing court records are grave.
- Cases are adjourned simply because affidavits filed several years ago were not restored with the record or not traceable. Digitization will help prevent such adjournments on this account.
- The time consumed in summoning records from lower courts to the appellate courts cause delays in case disposal. With digitization, much less time will be taken to transmit records when called for.
- It ensures transparency and openness.
Present scenario: These have sought to be implemented by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court by issuing directions to ensure that e-filing of cases or petitions by state governments in all matters are made mandatory from 1st January 2022. Before the pandemic, virtual hearings were held only in a limited manner. But recently, the SC in Anjali Brahmawar Chauhan vs Navin Chauhan allowed the Family Court to conduct trial of matrimonial cases through videoconferencing. In 2018, the SC allowed live-streaming of cases of Constitutional and national importance on the basis of Swapnil Tripathi Judgement. Gujarat HC in 2021 became the 1st court to livestream its proceedings, followed by HCs of Karnataka, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Patna.
Internet connectivity remains a issue with the need for a well-equipped space. The judicial machinery is not yet fully versed with digital technology & its benefits. The need of the hour, therefore, is to make them aware by giving adequate training. Virtual court hearings cannot be a substitute for physical court hearings in all cases. However, in appropriate cases of certain categories, virtual hearings can be made mandatory after due consultation with the members of the Bar