Analysis of Digitization of the Judiciary in India

Author: Yamya Pandey, New Law College, Bharti Vidyapeeth Deemed to be University, Pune.

Introduction

E-judiciary is no doubt a huge step towards modernization in Indian legal system. Judiciary in India has a hoary past since a long time. It may not be out of context to say that administration of justice in India has a historical background of nearly 5000 years[1]. Along with the advancement of technology all over the world the technological advancement of the courts should also be taken care of.

The Integrated Electronic Litigation System (iELS) or eLitigation (eLit) was an initiative by the ‘Singapore Judiciary’ to replace the existing Electronic Filing System (EFS). E-Litigation is a conceptualized and a structured framework to replace the Electronic Filing System (EFS). g. This system is conceptualized to aid law firms and courts in the litigation cycle – from filing electronic court papers to organizing hearings, billing, processing and managing information of transactions. Using the eLitigation program, law firms and courts should work together to establish an open, streamlined and secure environment that optimizes the connectivity and Internet accessibility.

It is generally assumed that litigation is a waste of time, money and paper. All three of these and the continuing burden on the courts can be drastically reduced by making the whole framework more technology-friendly. The E-Courts Initiative, conceived on the basis of the Indian Judiciary’s National Policy and Action Plan for the Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), was submitted by the Supreme Court of India’s e-committee with a view to transforming the Indian Judiciary by enabling the use of ICT (Information and communication technologies) in courts. On its successful implementation this can drastically bring a change in the processes of the Courts making the work much easier and handy.

Constructive up-shot of technology on the Indian Judiciary

  • Paper free Courts: Indian courts are agglomerated with numerous files and countless piles of papers. Paperless courts would include an ‘Electronic Filing Service’, which would allow court papers to get filed, an ‘Electronic Extract Service’, allowing lawyers to receive quotations from court records, a facility to support parties proceedings online and an ‘Electronic Information Service’.
  • National Data Account: A National Data Center may be set up to store all information related to ongoing research, lawsuits, phases and disposals, along with the essence of all the cases. In cases where there are precedents, the program will automatically compare and enable lower courts to make justice faster and avoid bunk cases from getting filed.
  • Transparency: Corruption and the inherent lack of transparency are among the main issues in the lower judiciary at the moment. Digitizing documents and eliminating the human element of filing will significantly minimize corruption and lighten the burden on average citizens.
  • Accessibility: Currently, some district courts across India are allowing court fees to be paid online in the form of E-Challan, and they are also updating on the e-courts website the case status of pending cases. The number of courts using this facility properly, however, is still very low. Law was designed to support the common man and a complex filing system just discourages sincere and serious litigants.
  • Under-Trial Proceedings: If an electronic database monitors and records how long an under-trial convict has been kept under the custody and in fast-track proceedings where a person has been imprisoned for a substantial period of time without any trial, the pressure on the prisons and free imprisonment will get dramatically reduced.
  • E-Witness Examination: Courts have begun to receive cross-examination and declarations over the utilization of electronic mediums, for example, Skype. However such utilization is constrained to just the Supreme Court. It is suggested that such a framework should be advanced to different courts all over the country which would reduce the working hours of both, the litigants and the courts. The actual grim behind this mini-revolutionizing of law and equity in this computerized age is that in spite of crusades like ‘Digital India’, a dominant part of the Indian residents are unskilled with the use of technology. The idea of e-courts and e-justice cannot be fulfilled until the common people of the society are appropriately trained to work for their advantages.

The scope of E-Litigation in India is as follows:

  • Electronic Filing Service
  • Case Information Repository.
  • e-Service
  • Notifications and Alerts
  • Calendaring and Hearing Dates
  • Reports Generation
  • Court Replies and Notifications (Mailbox)
  • Search for Created and Filed Cases/Quick Access

As per the latest updates of the e-Court website, e-litigation services have been currently made available in almost 382 district courts; 412 religious courts (including the Shariah tribunals); and 30 administrative courts in India. Exact figures of data as per the use of the system are not clearly available. However, at the end of March 2019, it was reported that 208 cases in the district courts, 714 cases in the religious courts and 28 cases in the administrative courts had been filed online.[2]

Possible restrains in the way:

Although it is to be commended for moving towards the establishment of a robust e-litigation program, there are still many constraints that could hamper the process. Firstly, the fact that both parties’ approval (i.e., the applicant and the defendant) is needed before e-litigation services can be used as from the psychological point of view, many defendants could be unlikely to consider something that makes it convenient for them to get sued.

There are also concerns over data security. Potential litigants – particularly businesses – may consider that the time and cost savings generated by e-litigation are outweighed by the dangers posed by entrusting confidential information to an external electronic system.

Data security concerns sometimes overpower our minds. People may find the time and cost savings created by e-litigation to be outweighed by the dangers posed by confiding sensitive and confidential information to an external electronic system. Another possible constraint is resistance from lawyers in the courtroom, some of whom will undoubtedly be concerned about the disruption to their defined ways of undertaking things and the possible loss of income that e-litigation might cause. Amid these perceived obstacles, the Supreme Court would hopefully continue to move forth with the ongoing e-litigation system. E-litigation will not only result in substantial saving of time and money for entities engaged in legal proceedings, it will also be of great benefit to the general public not only in India but also in various country like Indonesia, where the geographical distance from traditional court facilities frequently serves as a real impediment to justice.

Case Laws

Joseph Mathew and another v Singh Chiranjeev and another [3]

This case presented a rare opportunity for the court of appeal to address the complex provision as to formalities for contracts for the sale or disposition of contracts of lands or interests of land that is Section 6(d) of the Civil Law Act. The case is doubly interesting and important because it also addresses how the statutory provision may be satisfied by electronic communications such as e-mail. Furthermore, the use of e-mail communications to satisfy the requirement of formalities had never been addressed by the court of Appeal.

Some other landmark judgments which highlighted the true importance to e-litigation services to the world are:

  1. SM Integrated Transware Pte. Ltd v Schenker Singapore (Pte) Ltd [4]: One of the main issues that emerged, in this case, was whether the chain of e-mails fulfilled the requirements of section 6(d) of the ‘Civil Law Act’ for a promise or agreement or a memorandum or note thereof to be in writing and to be signed by the party, for a party to be bound by such an exchange of communications. To which the court took a pragmatic approach to what is capable of fulfilling the signature requirement. The court took the view that the “signature” requirement has been very loosely interpreted: it need not be a signature in the popular sense of the word, a printed slip may suffice if it contains the name of the defendant.
  2. Wee Soon Kim Anthony v Lim Chor Pee and another [5]: This landmark judgment also highlights the importance granted to e-signatures by the courts of law in order to make the work more accessible and easy for the people who get involved in various businesses and joint ventures from different parts of the world. E-Litigation is systematic supervision of framework for proceedings taking place before the Court. Not only does it improve the department by tracking court proceedings, but it also helps in balancing the cycle of attorney involvement in court cases.[6]

Conclusion

“Technology is definitely an essential element of change in all spheres of life. The human element involved also is an important factor. If technology is properly used, it can bring about tremendous changes for the betterment of life. Any change we contemplate is for speedy justice delivery mechanism keeping in focus the quality, transparency and public accountability.”[7] The Information and Communication Technology has advanced its course and has made a significant contribution to the judicial arena of the land. Establishing e-courts would surely offer transparency and efficiency to the judiciary, as they can introduce judicial modernization to India while helping to deal with the prolonged pending lawsuits. The digital transition provides considerable opportunities for those who render legal assistance and training to communities and individuals with low incomes. Technological advances allow us to produce a layout of higher quality, to perform better analysis, to work more collaboratively, to learn more effectively and, most importantly, to serve clients better.


REFERENCES:

[1] Dr Setlur B. N. Prakash, E Judiciary: a Step towards Modernization in Indian Legal System, Vol. 1 No. 1, Journal of Education & Social Policy, NLSIU Bangalore, 111 (2014).

[2]https://ecourts.gov.in/

[3] [2010] 1 SLR 338

[4] [2005] 2 SLR(R) 651

[5] [2005] 4 SLR(R) 367

[6] Food Corporation of India; Available at https://elitfci.nic.in/

[7] Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam


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