Those who litigate in courts say that litigation is a waste of time, money and paper. All three of these and the never-ending burden on courts can be drastically reduced by making the entire procedure more technology-friendly. The E-Courts Project, which was conceptualised on the basis of the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary was submitted by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India, with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT enablement of Courts. Once successfully implemented, this could drastically change the ease of access to Courts.
1. Paperless Courts: The Indian courts are littered with countless files and endless stacks of paper. E-litigation has been prevalent in Singapore, and this has drastically cut down on paper usage by introducing technology in the courtrooms.
It includes an electronic filing service (allows court documents to be filed), an electronic extract service (allows lawyers to obtain extracts of court documents), a facility to electronically serve processes on parties and electronic information service. This not only helps the Court reduce the paper trail but also helps lawyers keep proper track of all Court documents.
2. National Data Grid: A National Data Center could be established to hold all information concerning pending work, filings, stages and disposals, and subject matters of all cases.
The system could automatically compare and help lower Courts speedily render justice in cases where there exist precedents and stop infarctus cases from being filed.
3. Transparency: One of the biggest problems in the lower judiciary currently is corruption and the underlying lack of transparency. The digitisation of records and removal of the human element of filing would drastically reduce corruption and ease the burden on common people.
4. Ease of Access: Currently, certain District Courts all over India allow the filing of Court fees online in the form of E-Challan, and they also do update the case status of ongoing cases on the e-courts website. However, the number of Courts properly utilising this facility is far too less. Law was meant to help the common man and a complicated procedure of filing only discourages genuine litigants.
5. Under-Trial Prisoners: If an online database would regulate and track how long an under-trial prisoner has spent in prison and fast-track cases where a person has been imprisoned for long periods without a trial, it would drastically reduce the burden on prisons and free undertrials.
Also, in cases where the Petitioners/Complainants have caused unnecessary delays by taking adjournment, an e-system could automatically schedule the case for dismissal and clear up pending cases.
6. E-Witness Examination: Courts have already started accepting Cross-Examination and testimonies over the use of electronic mediums such as Skype.
The dismal fact behind this mini-revolutionising of law and justice in this digital age is that despite campaigns like Digital India, a majority of the Indian citizens are woefully ill-equipped to understand or take advantage of any technological benefit. The dream of E-Courts and E-Justice cannot be fulfilled until the average society is properly educated to take maximum advantage of its benefits.
Sourya Banerjee is a part of the Mentor Panel at One Future Collective.
First Published at One Future Collective