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Opinion: Should Online Courts Be The New Normal After The Pandemic?

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Image Credits: LiveLaw.com

The pandemic introduced everyone and everything to a new normal. As work from home and online classes got on board, the courts also extended their digital domain with virtual courts. These virtual courts are the upcoming future of the judicial system in India.

The SC started functioning completely online as the pandemic created an impasse. The courtrooms which were jam-packed with lawyers, litigants, and stacks of files are now a memory of the pre-covid world. The anecdotes on how lawyers made their way through the crowded courtrooms changed into how they managed to get a stable internet connection. Anyway, these first encounter problems will get ironed out as our litigants, lawyers, judges, and witnesses get familiar with the system.

As this pandemic is here to stay for a while, the Supreme Court, the High Courts, and several other courts adapted themselves to the situation and went online. Though in the start it was on a trial basis and limited but now it is extending itself to dispose of more cases effectively and provide relief to the uncertainty lingering around the functioning of courts. There were many obstructions and dilemmas on security, credibility, and productivity regarding this online functioning. But as the court premise’s online infrastructure upgrades this will accelerate the process and making it more productive and on time.

Accessibility & Productivity

The best part of this monumental transformation in the Indian justice delivery system is that it’s the next step to provide access to justice which is enshrined under Article 21. The pandemic has proved to be a blessing in disguise for the Indian judicial system which gets to know how to embrace the technology by providing equal field and accessibility to the last man standing.

The court hearings shifted to video conferencing which provides lawyers, litigants, and witnesses the facility to be present in the hearing from the comfort of their homes. Moreover, when the cases need expert testimonies that are present at different locations and are required to testify on the same day used to delay the process but now due to virtual hearings, this crease is also ironed out making the case disposal faster. S.C. has heard more than 52000 cases by the modern technology platform, which makes it the global leader in this arena.

Economic Benefits

Representational image.

Upgrading online capabilities could make courts a thing of the past.

The virtual courtrooms have put a benchmark on the cost-effective functioning of the Indian justice delivery system. The time and energy put by litigants, lawyers, and witnesses to travel to the courts and wait in the long queues for E-filing and hearings have reduced drastically. Moreover, the virtual courts reduced the exhaustive paperwork and cost of manpower to keep them on track by digital records with auto workflows. The courts are ensuring the use of e filing and summons through SMS and emails to registered litigants without the fuss of waiting in long lines.

The Uphill Battle

India as a country with enormous diversity poses structural challenges to these virtual courts which are necessary to be addressed to make this virtual successful in the true sense. India with a large population residing in rural and urban areas which have a huge gap in internet accessibility and connectivity plays a significant problem. The up-gradation of infrastructure for making it virtually accessible from the court premises is also in its primary transition period.

The onus of the security and credibility of the data and hearings are to be ensured too by the system as several times it came up that hackers infiltrated into virtual court hearings of other countries. So, we are moving towards a better future but we have to be conscious and attentive towards the concerns and threats too.

The Way Forward

Now, as the Covid curve is flattening, the courts are opening up physically in a very limited manner, but this shows the Indian judiciary the way to get a hybrid system for accelerated case disposal which includes both physical and virtual hearings as it increases the accessibility and productivity.

The virtual hearings are the new normal of the post-Covid world too and an essential part of the modern justice delivery system. The parliamentary panel on law and justice headed by Bhupendra Yadav, reported, that certain types of cases such as cases related to traffic Challans and petty offences should be transferred to virtual courts as it will reduce the delay in pending cases. Hopefully, we will come out with satisfactory results after the implementation of the hybrid system in India.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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