Law and Justice in the Digital Age
The massive scope of e-justice in today’s world.
Those who litigate in Courts say that litigation is a waste of time, money and paper. All three of these and the burden on Courts can be drastically reduced by making the entire procedure more technology friendly. The E-Courts Project, which was conceptualized 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.
Positive Effect of Technology in the Judiciary
1. Paperless Courts: The Indian courts are seen to be littered with countless files and endless stacks of paper. E-litigation, as has been prevalent in Singapore, has been seen to drastically cut down on paper 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 an 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. Digitization 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 do 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 ecourts website. However, the number of Courts properly utilizing this facility is far too less. Law was meant to help the common man and a complicated procedure of filing only discourses 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 under trials. Also important is that 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. But such usage, for now, is limited to only the Supreme Court. If such infrastructure could be provided to other Courts, it would reduce the time of both the litigants and the Court.
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.
Feature Image Credit: Department of Justice
Sourya Banerjee is a part of the Mentor Panel at One Future Collective.