Directions of E-filing in Delhi High Court

Delhi high court law insider
Delhi high court law insider


By Dhruva Vig-

Introduction

“If our business methods were as antiquated as our legal system, we would have become a bankrupt nation long back.” ~ Lord Devlin[1]

Our country is going through a developmental phase in various sectors of economy, where technology has played the most significant role of all. It is safe to assume that information and communication technology (ICT) has become the sine qua non of efficiency and development in the 21st century. Government benefits from technology as much as private sector organisations[2] and the judicial machinery of our country is no exception.

This article endeavours to discusses the e-Courts Mission Project of the government of India, which is aimed at ICT enablement of courts in India. The main intention of the article is to provide a definitive procedure for e-filing in the High Court of Delhi with reference to the High Court Rules, 2018.

Chapter XXVII of the High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018 has laid the practice directions for Electronic Filing (E-Filing) in the High Court of Delhi, which shall stand incorporated by the inclusion in such Rules and have been annexed hereto as “Annexure C” under the Rules itself. These may be encompassed in a systematic and methodical way as follows.

Practice Directions for Electronic Filing (e-filing)

  • These practice directions shall apply to Electronic Filing (e-filling) of cases in the High Court of Delhi and shall be effective from the dates and for the categories of cases which shall be notified by the Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi upon his sole discretion from time to time.
  • Except as provided elsewhere in these practice directions, all petitions, applications, appeals and all pleadings/documents in fresh, pending and disposed of cases shall be filed electronically in the manner hereafter provided.

Procedure for e-filing

  • The original text material, documents, notice of motion, memorandum of parties, main petition or appeal, as the case may be, and interlocutory applications etc. shall be prepared electronically by making use of software like MS Word or Open Office software, whichever is available to the user. The formatting style of the text shall be as under:
    • Paper size: A-4
    • Margins: Top Margin: 1.5”, Bottom margin: 1.5”, Left Margin: 1.75”
    • bication: Full
    • Font: Times New Roman
    • Font size: 14
    • Line spacing: 1.5
  • The documents should be converted into Portable document Format (PDF) using any PDF converter or in-built PDF conversion plug-in provided in the software. The procedure to convert any word document to a PDF format file has been set out in the Appendix I to these Practice Directions under the Rules.
  • Where the document is not a text document and has to be enclosed with the petition, appeal or application or other pleadings, the document should be scanned using an image resolution of 300 dpi (dot per inch) and is to be saved in a format of PDF document.
  • The maximum permissible size of the file that can be uploaded at the time of e-filing is 300 MB.
  • The text documents prepared in MS Word/Open Office as well as scanned documents should be merged as a single PDF file and book-marked. The procedure for purposes such as this has been set out in Appendix II to these Practice Directions.
  • The merged documents should be uploaded at the time of e-filing by using the facility provided at the e-filing centre in the High Court Lawyers’ Chambers Block-I. The screen shots and reference images of the manner in which the e-filing portal of the Delhi High Court shall be accessed, and filling up of the relevant columns and information for the purposes of e-filing of a suit before the Court, have been set out under the Appendix III to the Practice Directions provided under the Delhi High Court Rules.

Digital Signature

All electronic documents in the e-filing process are to be filed using the e-filing system and shall be digitally signed by the advocate for the parties to the case, or where it is being filed in person, by the party or person so concerned.

The list that has been provided for the purposes of recognized Digital Signature Providers and the procedure involved in appending single or multiple digital signatures, have been set under the Appendix IV in the Practice Directions of the Delhi High Court Rules.

Payment of Court Fee

A court fee can be paid by means of purchasing any electronic court fee either from the online facility which has been provided by the stock Holding corporation of India Limited (http://www.shcilestamp.com/) or from the physical location of sale counters which have been provided for the purpose of purchase of Court fee in the premises of Delhi High Court, or from any other authorized court fee vendor in the territory of Delhi which deals in the business of court fees.

The payment code, whether automatically generated on payment of court fee online through the payment gateway of Stock Holding Corporation of India Limited, or on the receipt when court fee is purchased from the counter, has to be filed in the appropriate box at the time of e-filing of any suit at the Delhi High Court as prescribed under the Delhi High Court Rules (2018).

Retention of Originals

  • The originals of the documents that are scanned and digitally signed either by counsel or parties in person at the time of e-filing should be preserved for production upon being direction by the court at any time.
  • In any event, a signed Vakalatnama of any practicing advocate, which has been duly signed and notarized/attested affidavit, shall be filed in original in the Registry of the Court. Any other document of relevant nature to the suit, whose authenticity is likely to be questioned before the Court, should be preserved at least for a period of two years till after the final disposal of the case has taken place; (Final disposal of a suit/trial shall also be inclusive of disposal of appeals if any) and the following documents be preserved permanently: —
    • A ‘negotiable instrument’ of any kind (other than a cheque that is) and any other instrument which has been defined under Section 13 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (26 of 1881).
    • A ‘power-of-attorney’ which has been defined under Section 1-A of the Power-of-Attorney Act, 1882 (7 of 1882).
    • A ‘trust’ which has been defined under Section 3 of the Indian Trusts Act, 1882 (2 of 1882)
    • A ‘will’ which has been defined under clause (h) of Section 2 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 (39 of 1925) which is inclusive of any other testamentary disposition by whatever name called.
    • Any ‘contract for the sale’ or any contract for conveyance of immovable property or any other contract or not which is in respect to the interest in such property.
  • The responsibility for act of producing the original documents and proving the genuineness of such documents shall be of the party/person that has electronically filed the scanned copies thereof before the Court.

Access to Electronic Documents

Access or permission to documents and pleadings which have been filed electronically in a case shall be provided only to advocates for the parties in that present case or the concerned parties or persons themselves. The advocate or the party to any case may obtain such documents from the Filing Counter at the Court by way of mailing an application of the same, along with a blank CD-R/DVD-R to be provided by the party to such filing counter or by any other procedure established under the High Court Rules.

Exemption from Electronic Filing

Exemption in certain cases from the instance of e-filling of the whole or part of the pleadings and/or documents may be permitted by the Court dependent upon various circumstances, where upon an application for that purpose has been made to the Court in the following circumstances:

  • where the process of e-filing is, for the reasons to be explained in the application filed before the Court, not feasible; or.
  • where there are concerns or inhibitions by the party or advocate about the confidentiality and protection of privacy of the matter so filed before the Court; or
  • where the document relevant to the matter cannot be scanned or filed in electronic medium because of its size, shape or condition; or
  • where the e-filing system/platform is either inaccessible by the advocate/parties, or not available for some reason or the other; or
  • any other sufficient cause.

Service of Electronic Documents

In addition to the prescribed mode of service under the High Court Rules, notices, documents, pleadings that that have been filed electronically in a case, may also be served through e-mail by the High Court of Delhi in some instances.

The e-mail address of the High Court of Delhi ([email protected]) shall be published on its website so as to enable the recipients of any case to verify the source of the e-mail at the e-mail addresses, if available at the time, of the advocates or parties incidental thereto.

Computation of Time

  • Electronic filing of matters through the e-filing centre is permissible up to 4 p.m. on the date of filing. All other rules relating to holidays etc. for the purpose of computation of limitation in a matter, as specified in the Rules of the High Court of Delhi, shall apply to online electronic filing method as well. The time period during which the e-filing system is in-operational/non-functional for any reason, shall be excluded from the computation of such time in the matters before the Court. This, however, shall not extend limitation for such filing for which the facility of Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963 or any other statutory extension of period of limitation is not available.
  • For electronic filing done through the e-filing centre in the Delhi High Court premises, the rules relating to time for the purpose of limitation shall be no different from those applicable for the normal filing.
  • As and when the facility of electronic online filing commences, such electronic online filing would be permissible up to midnight on the date of filing.

Caveats, Supplementary Affidavits Etc.

Caveats[3] shall be registered, and all written statements, counter affidavits or reply affidavits, affidavits by way of rejoinder, documents, applications in pending matters or in disposed of matters, supplementary pleadings, documents etc in pending cases shall also be filed by electronic means using the e-filing system. The procedure for this purpose of caveats has been set out under the Appendix V to the Practice Directions under the Delhi High Court Rules.

Hard Copied of Pleadings and Documents Filed Electronically

Lawyers as well as parties to any case before the Court, shall have the authority to print hard copies of all pleadings and documents which have been filed electronically for their use in the Court or elsewhere. Likewise, the Registry of the Court shall, wherever be required in relevant instances, prepare hard copies for use of the courts or as directed by the Court.

Storage and Retrieval of Electronically Filed Documents and Pleadings

The pleadings and documents electronically filed shall be stored on an exclusive server maintained under the control and directions of the High Court of Delhi. Each case shall be separately labelled and encrypted for this purpose to facilitate easy identification and retrieval.

The security of such document and pleadings filed before the Court shall be ensured, and access to such documents and pleadings would be restricted in the manner indicated hereinbefore and as may be notified from time to time to the parties or advocates of the relevant case. Backup copies of all electronically filed pleadings and documents before the Court, shall be preserved in the manner decided by the Court itself, on its administrative side of things on such issues.

Conclusion

The biggest challenge for Indian courts has the huge pendency of cases. As of 15th April 2021, 4.4 crore cases are pending in various courts in India, which is a significant increase from 3.68 crore cases there were pending in the previous year (March 25, 2020).

Both pillars of our democracy, that is, the executive and the judiciary in India have been au fait on the issue. Another major factor adding insult to injury would the prevalence of the Covid-19 induced disruptions, which have made a major dent on the administration of justice in India, all with the ever-increasing backlog at our hands.

To put things in perspective, an all-time record has been recorded with the backlog of cases across Supreme Court, High Courts and about 19,000 district and subordinate courts to have gone up by at least 19% since March last year.[4]

However, the migration of cases to the digital format, however slow-paced, has been a step in the positive direction. We hope the Courts are able to quickly adapt to such new challenges, and provide an expedient relief to the alarming increase in pendency of cases in a judicious manner, where such is in consonance with the legal maxim “justice delayed is justice denied”.

References:

  1. In special reference to British legal system, but often quoted by Indian judges. See, for example, the Report of the First National Judicial Commission, Vol. 1, November 1999, p. iii; and 117th Report of the Law Commission of India on Training of Judicial Officers, November 1986, p. 2.
  2. Ken Miller. 2010. We Don’t Make Widgets: Overcoming the Myths that Keep Governments from Radically Improving. Washington, DC: Governing Books.
  3. Section 148A under CPC “Right to lodge a caveat.”
  4. Pending cases in India cross 4.4 crore, up 19% since last year | India News – Times of India (indiatimes.com)

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