Indian Judicial system is witnessing a renaissance movement with the introduction of Information Communication Technology (ICT). This has brought about a fundamental change in the existing working of the judiciary in India and the grand change is likely to spread nationwide. With the advent of technology and the introduction of e-Courts, there is a visible reduction of paper work, timely justice, ready access to desirable information, right from filing of case to delivery of judgments. To quote Mr. Justice A.K. Sikri, Acting Chief Justice of High Court of Delhi, "We discuss administrative matters, in which the agenda of 400 papers is given to 36 judges, that means 14,400 papers are wasted just in giving the agenda."
E-Court system is a secured mode and is trustworthy with no hazards in accessing as it is user friendly. It can capture information and check the integrity timely.
Video conferencing can be done in courts where talking can be done directly face-to-face via web cameras at distant places involving courts, police stations, Forensic Science laboratories, hospitals and jails, etc. The whole data can be retrieved later at any time from any location. It will soon become the handy tool for judges. It is expected that very shortly the High Court of Delhi will be connected with all District Courts in Delhi.
With e-courts, one can easily file the case online and can pay online court fees as well.
In the conventional system, huge space is required for storing enormous files and precious documents, which get demaged with the passage of time. In case of fire, the entire record gets busted. However, today all records can be digitized. In fact, there will now be paperless courts. Data can now be retrieved in fraction of seconds with just one click. There is a shift from paper and pen to computers, printers, scanners and touch i-pads, which are largely being approved and adopted by judges, lawyers and others, alike. We can notice a clear change of attitude and mindset of the people for accepting every change ranging from digitized speech, voice, face, digital signature, finger prints, etc.
The new technology is eco-friendly, as paper means less trees, less trees mean less forests which, in turn, results in deserts. We can not completely eliminate the use of paper but can reduce the undesirable wastage.
Under the new system, all data shall be available online for judges, lawyers, litigants and others. Right from filing a case till its disposal, all information regarding the status, number of adjournments, applications moved, orders, judgments shall be available online. This shall reduce the burden of courts, and the time consumed for applying and getting the certified copies of orders and judgments shall no longer be a problem.
At a recently concluded Conference on e-Courts, Union Minister for Law & Justice, Salman Khurshid advised that the repository should be created in such a manner that it is easily accessible by the legal fraternity and the common man. He urged the judiciary to ensure that all parties in a court case have the option of hearing the crucial part of the judgment in their mother tongue for clear understanding. The Law Minister added this was necessary in a country where 25 languages are spoken and the judgments are always in English apart from using the "tough legalese".
Justice Altamas Kabir, Judge Supreme Court of India, added that IT outreach in courts and legal domains is the need of the hour in order to ensure that justice to common man is not delayed and denied.
The High Court of Delhi started with the e-Court pilot project about three years ago and successfully implemented the same in two courts with encouraging results.
Justice Badar Durrez Ahmed, Chairman, Computer Committee, High Court of Delhi feels that Information & Communication Technology (ICT) will help to solve many problems faced by the courts on day-to-day basis and enable speedy disposal of cases. Usage of video conference for those who as witnesses can not attend the courts for various reasons is a practical example.
The Nightmarish Ground Reality
Over three million cases are pending in India's 21 High Courts and 26.3 million cases are pending in subordinate Courts across the country with only 14.7 Judges available per million people.
Continuous growth in the number of cases has only increased the burden on our judicial system. At the same time, the cost and inefficiency of dealing with records has crept up and the process has become extremely unwieldy, inefficient and cumbersome.
In addition, massive cost, time and risk are involved in bringing the accused, witnesses, and experts to the courts. Faced with limited manpower and inadequate resources, the judicial system is under tremendous pressure to serve effectively as the guardian of citizen's rights. It has become more than imperative in today's times to empower the judicial system with ICT tools to streamline the process of justice delivery, so as to benefit the common man.
Benefits of the ICI
- The entire proceedings are videographed using multiple high resolution PTZ cameras.
- The control of recording software interface is in the hands of the judge who can start/stop it anytime.
- File records, evidences and other case related documents (depositions, notes, files, summons and orders) are scanned and digitized via scanners and visualizers and are available to authorized users for viewing.
- Uploading of scanned files/evidence and adding relevant metadata.
- Allows judges to see recording of proceedings for review.
- Makes the knowledge and information content available in 24x7 online environment to authorized viewers.
- Appropriate searching of case records.
- Provision to provide authentic case copies to authorized persons.
- Provision to upload the case records to a central archive.
- Live webcast of case proceedings with password protection.