Role of Information & Communication Technology in Court Management

Author: - Madhavi Achari

Trimester III, LLM ( FINANCIAL REGULATION)
Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, NMIMS, Mumbai

1. INTRODUCTION

In the era of the 21st Century, the advancement of technology has urged the need for Information and Communication Technology in the judicial system for accurate and speedy justice. With the gradual aggregation & slow disposal rate of pending litigation has increased pressure on our judicial system massively. Courts had to manage all the physical documents, i.e., either in folders or registers. It is not easy to hold such large data in hard copy and to restore and it also proves to be unstable and vulnerable to physical tempering & resource depletion. It also takes a long way to solve the case and even the Judges/ Courts/ Cases keep on changing during the verdict. In certain situations, the witnesses and the accused change their statements and turn hostile due to which the Judges find it difficult to restore the cases as far as the available information is in written form kept only in case files. Thus, by bringing the Information and Communication Technology in managing such courtrooms which will be productive and will provide scope in conserving the case file & audio/visual record for future references.

The ongoing pandemic crisis is known as Coronavirus Disease – 2019 (COVID-19), a recent outbreak, has brought the entire world to a halt. The capacity of public and public institutions to physically assemble and address matters of national significance has been constrained by this Pandemic. Owing to the lockdown and social distancing norms, the Supreme Court of India and High Court and various Subordinate courts have adopted digital technology and virtual hearing to ensure the continued privilege of justice.  Digital technology has allowed the courts to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the judiciary. With the aid of technology, digital court or E-court model seeks to fast-track the dismissal of pending lawsuits and even enables an end-to-end holistic process. The comprehensive analysis of the progress of the justice system until now it’s accomplished and the issues to be achieved are going to be evaluated in the framework of artificial intelligence and its use in court processes.

2. NATIONAL POLICY AND ACTION PLAN TOWARDS IMPLEMENTATION OF ICT IN INDIAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM

Based on the ‘National Policy and Action Plan for the Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary -2005 which was prepared by e-committee of the Supreme Court of India. The e-courts project was formulated in 2004 to establish a strategic plan to enhance the efficacy and efficiency of Information & Communication Technology of the judicial system. The ICT in the judicial system was articulated under the chairmanship (Chief and ad-hoc chairman) of the Chief Justice of India. This project was first approved on 8th February 2007 under the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs. This project was set up by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).  [1]This project aims to render services and make it citizen-centric with the help of technology. Moreover, the government has also launched the “E-Court Integrated Mission Mode Project” which was launched with the help of technology to enhance access to justice. The e-Courts project intends to provide litigants, lawyers and the judiciary with specified resources through universal computerization of the district and subordinate courts in India and also the development of the ICT that facilitates the legal system. This project has come out with two Phases i.e. Phase –I and Phase –II.  The Phase –I of the project aims for the enhancement of the Information & Communication Technology infrastructure in the Courts to occupy 14,249 district courts and subordinate courts under the project with the total budget of 935 crores and also ICT authorization for enhancement of the judicial system. The undergoing targets of Phase-II are setting up centralized filing centres, digitization of records, and adoption of documentation, usage of e-filing and e-payment gateways, which is currently in progress.[2]

3. MAJOR COMPONENTS OF ICT IN COURT MANAGEMENT

  • Case Information System (CIS): It is software which is developed under the initiative of the- committee to enhance transparency and thereby making it more litigant friendly in the judicial system. Through the software team National Informatics Center (NIC), Pune the Case Information System 3.0 has been implemented under the guidance of the- committee, Supreme Court of India. The primary objective of this programme is to allow the litigant to display, from any part of the world, the regular status of his case, the orders of the case, the hearing date of his case, the progress of the case on any specific date online.
  • Digitalization of Case records: The Indian Courts already congested with innumerable files and piles of papers. Thus E-litigation has emerged to be ubiquitous and reduced the paper usage with the advent of information technology. Thus, with a mere click of a button, the approved user would have access to such information. Even the statements are typed by the steno on the computer which is made viable on the screen for the approval of the judges and once it is approved it is merely signed by the judges through digital signature. This process makes the whole judicial system economical and time conserving.
  • Video Conferencing in Courts proceedings: In Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No. 5/2020, In Re: Guidelines for Court Functioning through Video Conferencing during COVID-19 Pandemic, a Bench of CJI Bobde and Justices DY Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao [3] directed that all measures shall be taken by the Supreme Court and by the High Courts to reduce the need for the physical presence of all stakeholders within court premises and to secure the functioning of courts in consonance with social distancing guidelines. Thus by using video conferencing techniques, any person can give his statement from any remote place including hospitals or jails.
  • Online First Information Report: As per Section 154 Code of Criminal Procedure, First Information Report is a document prepared by the police department for a cognizable offence which is lodged by any person concerned. Due to technology advancement, it is now possible to file FIR through online mode.  Such an experiment is undertaken by the State of Karnataka by sending the FIR to the judge of the District court online.

 

4. ADVANTAGES OF ICT IN COURTS MANAGEMENT

  • The initiative of digitalization in courtrooms would minimize substantial court costs for all parties to the court proceedings in terms of construction, personnel, facilities, staffing, transportation costs, in particular the transfer of inmates from prisons.
  • The extension of e-courts would facilitate convenient access for all parts of society to redress inefficient courts.
  • Even in the case of witnesses who are unable to approach the court and threaten them with the repercussion in making their statements as the other party might be very strong, in such circumstances, the e-courts can help in dealing for rendering the justice inaccurate and proper manner.
  • The digitalization in the judicial system would enable efficient workflow in the management of the courts, thereby enhancing a better court and case management.
  • The crucial information such as maintaining the records of e- files, bail orders, warrants, summons, etc. would be recorded carefully and stored in a computerized form for quick references, thereby avoiding the risks of getting misplaced or manipulated.

 

5. CHALLENGES OF ICT IN COURTS MANAGEMENT

  • Though the technical environment of the judicial system is being adopted by a country like India, the concept of incorporating electronic courts in the judiciary remains an incomplete vision due to the absence of legal expertise.
  • The ICT in courts management would require the usage of computers and infrastructure, thereby involving a lot of expenditure and making it cost-intensive. The biggest threat which is faced by e-court is cybersecurity and nowadays, hacking has emerged to be stronger in every aspect of the techno Thus chances of getting e-courts hacked cannot be denied.
  • The paralegal personnel are not well organized and qualified to manage records or track evidence efficiently and make them easily accessible to the litigant, the tribunal and the court.
  • Finally, in most of the Taluks/villages, we can also anticipate problems related to inadequate infrastructure and the unavailability of electricity and internet access.

 

6. RECOMMENDATION TO ADDRESS THE CHALLENGES

First and foremost, we should formulate policies to promote the establishment of e-courts to resolve the existing issues. A well-defined and pre-decided structure is crucial as it can assist in laying a conceptual framework and path for India’s e-courts regime. It is of utmost significance that the government has to make initiatives to identify and develop the infrastructure and organize more techno centres that will successfully support the e-court project in the legal system. Thus this project has to deploy more funds to install good infrastructure and computers to enhance the effectiveness of the E- court system. Another facet that needs to be focused is the deployment of stringent protocols and cybersecurity strategy to address the problems expeditiously and prevent the hacking of the database of case files and other matters. The privacy of the layout and framework of e-courts is of utmost importance. The user-friendly e-courts process, which is easy and readily available to the public, would also enable litigants in India to use such facilities. The Government also has to provide keen efforts in the training of the personnel in maintaining the e-data. It is also essential in conducting training sessions to familiarize the Judges with the e-courts framework and procedure can give a huge impetus to the successful running of e-courts.

Finally, it will help to raise awareness of e-courts through corporate events and seminars to help people understand the benefits and the convenience that e-courts would bring in the judicial system.

7. CONCLUSION

The idea of Information & Communication Technology in the management of courts will result in two mindsets, i.e. the brick and mortar court, which means court in reality, and the other is virtual courts. Such virtual courts will ensure transparency and accountability to the judicial system as they can offer further judicial progress in India while managing to deal with long-pending cases.

The existing government is undertaking aggressive steps all over India to create e-courts. All these government attempts would result in providing litigants with simple and cost-effective solutions. With the aid of e-courts, the judiciary system in India will resolve challenges and make the process of service delivery transparent and economical. E-courts can also benefit from the justice system and allow for the versatile compilation of stored information.

Today’s pandemic situation has given a wakeup call to allow the litigants to approach the courts through virtual mode so that securing justice would create no hindrance in this crisis. Digital transformation produces both possibilities and difficulties. It is important to fully understand and master these opportunities and challenges if the organizations we serve want to take full advantage of what information technology provides.

Thus, Information & Communication Technology in managing the courts and legal field from future perspective will prove to be a significant step in the evolution of the judicial system of India and will play an important role in strengthening the trust of local and international markets as they expand India’s investments.

 

References:

[1] Brief on eCourts Project,

https://doj.gov.in/sites/default/files/Brief-on-eCourts-Project-Phase-I-.

[2] ECOMMITTEE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA POLICY AND ACTION PLAN DOCUMENT PHASE II OF THE ECOURTS PROJECT (as approved on 8th January, 2014), https://ecourts.gov.in/ecourts_home/static/manuals/PolicyActionPlanDocument-PhaseII-approved-08012014-indexed_Sign.pdf

[3] Indian Legal news, Latest News, Breaking News, Live Court Updates Bar and Bench – Indian Legal news, https://www.barandbench.com/ .

4. Courts adopting digital technology rapidly amid Covid-19: Ravi Shankar Prasad – ET Government, https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/digital-india/courts-adopting-digital-technology-rapidly-amid-covid-19-ravi-shankar-prasad/77070087.

5. COVID-19, Technology and Access to Justice, https://www.unodc.org/dohadeclaration/en/news/2020/04/covid-19–technology-and-access-to-justice.html

6. Can e-courts help speeding up justice delivery? Business Today, https://www.businesstoday.in/opinion/columns/can-ecourts-help-speeding-up-justice-delivery/story/244398.html.

7. Brief on eCourts Project,

https://doj.gov.in/sites/default/files/Brief-on-eCourts-Project-Phase-I-.

8. NATIONAL POLICY AND ACTION PLAN FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF, https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/ecommittee/action-plan-ecourt.pdf.

9. Would Digitisation Of The Judiciary Help To Curb Corruption In The System? Youth Ki Awaaz, https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2019/12/law-and-justice-in-digital-age/.

10. Need for a uniformly enabled ICT for the Indian Judiciary Bar and Bench – Indian Legal news,

https://www.barandbench.com/columns/need-for-an-ict-uniformly-enabled-indian-judiciary.

11. COMMITTEE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA POLICY AND ACTION PLAN DOCUMENT PHASE II OF THE E-COURTS PROJECT (as approved on 8th January 2014), https://ecourts.gov.in/ecourts_home/static/manuals/PolicyActionPlanDocument-PhaseII-approved-08012014-indexed_Sign.pdf

12. Guidelines for court functioning through video conferencing during COVID-19 pandemic tmi – tax management India. Com, https://www.taxmanagementindia.com/visitor/detail_rss_feed.asp?ID=22732.

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