Published on: 27 September 2022 at 14:28 IST
The development of information technology (IT) has always been a force that has the potential to completely transform any business industry. Improving how we serve our customers and making better use of data to inform our choices on a global scale are the primary focuses of this initiative. The initiative known as Digital India, which was started by the government of India, is also contributing to the revolutionization of the industrial sector in India.
The legal sector in India has not been immune to its effects, but in the context of the expansion of the digital economy, it is still in the infant stages of development. The impact of legal technology is rapidly transforming the way legal departments and firms conduct their business. This is occurring concurrently with an increased awareness of the cost savings afforded by advances in information technology. The Indian legal system is rapidly becoming more digitalized.
However, the help desks of Indian courts suffer from a severe lack of digital expertise, which presents a significant obstacle. It is impossible to discount the significance of delivering digital education to the support staff working at the courts’ help desks, as these individuals play a very important part in gaining access to the advantages offered by virtual or online courts.
The restrictions imposed by Covid-19 were a major driving force behind the digitization of the Indian judicial system. The judicial system, led by the Supreme Court and the High Courts, has implemented electronic filing for matters that are time-sensitive and has increased the number of hearings that are held via video conferencing. The Indian judicial system was presented with a golden opportunity by digitization, which is the reduction of the pendency of a multitude of cases, as well as the preservation of documents that are over ten years old.
As a result, it is absolutely necessary to have a conversation about the implementation of digital technology in order to make better use of its potential. This is especially important in terms of the digitization of court records, the electronic filing of cases and their virtual hearings, and the live streaming of court proceedings.
Digitization of Indian Judiciary
Since ancient times, India’s judicial system has enjoyed a reputation for excellence. By consistently delivering landmark decisions in accordance with the needs of the public interest, the judicial system has successfully maintained the public’s faith in itself throughout history. But it is also not a secret that there is a growing backlog of cases, which has ultimately led to an overburdening of the cases that are pending before the courts. This is a fact that is not hidden. The persistent growth in the number of cases has been a source of concern for the judicial system, which is why a variety of measures are currently being taken to address this predicament.
The outbreak of this pandemic, COVID-19, has shaken the world, and nearly every nation on earth has attempted to stop the spread of this virus by practising social isolation. The Indian government has also been very observant about the nationwide lockdown and the social isolation that has been ordered.
Additionally, the Indian judiciary has made it a priority to keep a social distance, and as a result, it has recommended conducting business in a digital format. In the midst of this epidemic, many cases in India have been heard online through the use of video conferencing and electronic filing of cases. This shift in the way courts operate, away from traditional courtrooms and toward online tribunals, has contributed to a reduction in the amount of time needed to access justice and has made it easier to do so.
The concept of digitising India’s judicial systems is not new; in fact, it has been proposed in the past as well. However, due to a lack of knowledge of technology and other facilities, a proper implementation of it was not possible. One of the most significant challenges associated with these factors is the fact that not everyone in India has access to the internet or is knowledgeable about various technologies.
The Supreme Court Approach
The idea behind the e-Courts project was to modernise the Indian judicial system through the implementation of information and communication technology in the courts.
The draught vision document for Phase III of the e-Courts project was just recently made available for public review by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India. In the wake of the pandemic, the Supreme Court issued an order to all of the lower courts instructing them to make extensive use of video-conferencing for judicial proceedings. The United States Supreme Court adopted a brand new method of electronic filing and referencing that was enabled by artificial intelligence in May of 2020.
The process of filing a complaint now only requires one click, as we can see in today’s world. This method, which is referred to as a digitalized approach to registering complaints and can be used by many people to file complaints, is similar to how you can book your online air ticket; train ticket; online book your hotels; and so on. The process of filing a First Information Report (FIR), a civil case, an application for the Right to Information Act (RTI), a consumer grievance, an application for document verification, driving licence, etc. increased accountability of the authorities while saving a lot of hassle for the common man, and courts are providing regular case status updates through their web portals.
And one of the recent developments that has taken place as a result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership has been the launch of a new website for the Supreme Court of India. On this website, we can see that an all-new integrated case management information system has been implemented (ICMIS). In addition to this, the feature also allows for the filing of cases of online digital cases under (ICMIS).
Data and News from Past Years
In India, e-governance in the area of justice administration started in the late 1990s, but it really took off after the Information and Technology Act, of 2000, was passed.
The establishment of e-courts across the nation and the digitization of court records were priorities as the twenty-first century got underway. E-courts were introduced in 2006 as a part of the National e-Government Plan (NeGP).
What actions have the courts taken to digitizese the legal system?
In this regard, the Allahabad High Court serves as a model. Justice DY Chandrachud conceptualizeded and started the project digitizese roughly one crore case files in a year while serving as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court (HC).
In the case of Krishna Veni Nagam v. Harish Nagam, the Supreme Court authorised the hearing of matrimonial cases via videoconferencing (2017). The path, though, was transient.
On the basis of the ruling in Swapnil Tripathi v. Supreme Court of India, 2018, the Supreme Court permitted the live streaming of cases with constitutional and national significance in 2018.
The live streaming of court proceedings is an effort to guarantee openness and transparency. The Gujarat High Court became the first court in the nation to stream its proceedings live in July 2021. The HCs of Karnataka, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and Patna all adopted it as their own.
To address the judiciary’s lack of digital access, the most recent Vision Document for Phase III of the e-Courts Project was unveiled during the Covid-19 pandemic. It reflects the impact that the pandemic has had on India’s judicial timeline and thinking and envisions a judicial infrastructure that is “natively digital.”
The Law Minister recently stated that in order to increase the effectiveness of the justice delivery system, new, cutting-edge technologies of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) must be adopted for the implementation of phase two of the e-Courts project. The Supreme Court of India established an Artificial Intelligence Committee to investigate how AI might be used in the judicial system.
Role of Lok Adalat
The Indian judiciary is plagued by a serious issue called pendency. More than 4.7 crore cases were still pending in the nation’s courts as of May 2022. The initial purpose of Lok Adalats was to lessen the quantity of unresolved cases in the nation. But the procedure has remained cumbersome and slow. In order to deliver prompt justice, Jupitice Justice Technologies Private Limited has unveiled India’s first Digital Lok Adalat powered by AI.
The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 gave birth to Lok Adalat, also referred to as People’s court, which is a well-known system of alternative dispute resolution in India. Lok Adalat is based on the idea and philosophy of Panch Parmeshvar of the gramme panchayats and is inspired by the Panchayati Raj that was once popular in India. As required by Article 39-A of the Indian Constitution, the Lok Adalat was given legal standing by the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, which was passed by the Parliament. The aforementioned act includes a number of provisions for using Lok Adalat to settle disputes.
The dispute is resolved by Lok Adalat (individuals’ courts) through conciliation and compromise. These Adalat view the cases currently in the general courts that can be settled through conciliation as being within their purview. It is a unique kind of tribunal where disputes between the parties are resolved through communication coordination. Permanent Lok Adalats are established as permanent bodies for dispute resolution through conciliation and settlement under Section 22b of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
Stand of Justices DY Chandrachud & UU Lalit on Digitization of Indian Judiciary
Digitization of the Indian Judiciary has been a strongly preferred and rather liked idea by the judicial body inclusive of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice UU Lalit. It has been positively viewed and welcomed by both these renowned judges. Justice DY Chandrachud is greatly enough, the chairperson of the e-committee of the court and also stated that- “Paperless court, e-filing, and e-office projects of High Court of Kerala will be building blocks to digitize and modernize the Indian judiciary, while ensuring decentralization of justice.”
‘Vision’– the e-Courts committee of the Supreme Court of India (Justice DY Chandrachud is the chairperson of this e-committee of the court) has been a progressive and transformational roadmap for how technology and justice can be interwined and optimized. This committee is bringing to the forefront the need for technology and technology-augmented processes to enhance justice delivery for those who need it the most.
The first thing that needs to be done for the future is to educate people on how to use technology because without a good education, a person’s theology won’t come out. Education, according to Swami Vivekananda, “is a process of uncovering the hidden features in a person.” Reading, writing, or using a computer are not the only components of education. It is a process of developing personality. Additionally, education is crucial for a nation’s overall development.
It is closely related to the process of development. When India gained its independence, the government of India framed its education policy so that all children would receive free, compulsory education until they turned 14 years old. But a law student cannot ignore information technology in order to keep up with the rapidly expanding field of information technology (IT), where the sky appears to be the limit in terms of employment.
One of the noblest professions is imparting legal education. Studying law does not only entail reading legal texts in their purest form; it also entails studying additional material that has political, social, and economic components. for the revelation of the truth, a result of the various kinds of information a person has gathered. Because they are concerned with human values and social requirements, legal education aims to produce citizens who are good and proper for future nations, not just good lawyers.
IT discipline studies are beneficial because they would allow law school students to learn from people from all walks of life rather than limiting them to bookish knowledge. A digital library, digital archives, future IT or technology usage with care and caution, as well as IT research (Information technology).
One of the recovery systems that can be created with the assistance of the faculty of law and the computer science department is technology. The second area in which computers can be very helpfully used is artificial intelligence system, where a variety of stereotype cases can be decided with the aid of computer programmers at a greater and faster rate.
The computer science department and the law faculty would be actively engaged in joint research, which would need to be smartly pursued to develop useful computerised programmes as a settlement mechanism.
Now that we have presented the state of the art technique for introducing the technology in Indian courts for digitally preserving case files and visual information in seriatim sequence, not only has the technology proven its way, but it has also made a significant company inroad into the judicial field of the country.
In addition, during the most recent meeting, the department of justice within the law ministry stated that the backlog of pending cases in India can be reduced, and they also stated that “any time, anywhere dispute resolution” is possible. In addition, the Indian government was the one that spearheaded the effort to digitise the judicial system almost twenty years ago.
The system has been shown to be very effective in terms of cost from time to time, and advances in technology have inspired optimism regarding the prospect of obtaining speedy justice from the Indian courts and the other quasi-judicial bodies. One day, we will be able to say that justice is not delayed, and cases are promptly closed.
- Digitization of Court Records : Bombay HC
- Digitizing of Judiciary will Usher in Speedy Justice Delivery: Justice DY Chandrachud
- The Oxford Handbook of Indian Constitutional Law ( Edited by – Sujit Choudhry, Madhav Khosla & Pratap Mehta eds., 2016)
- Minutes of Meeting (21 July 2017) under Chairmanship of Dr G N Raju, Ministry of Law & Justice
- ‘Privacy and Court Records: Online Access and the Loss of Practical Obscurity’ by David S. Ardia
- Salem Bar Association v. Union of India AIR 2003 SC 189 (2003)
- All India Judges’ Association v. Union of India, 4 SCC 247 (2002)
- 14th Law Commission Report
- Krishna Veni Nagam v. Harish Nagam SC, 9th March, 2017 ↑
- Swapnil Tripathi v. Supreme Court of India, 26 September, 2018 ↑
- The Constitution of India, 1950 ↑