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EMERGENCE AND FUTURE OF VIRTUAL COURTS

Author: Pallabi Paul, II year of LL.M.(Criminal Law) Department of Law, Assam University, Silchar


Introduction

Due to the ongoing Covid - 19 pandemic, it's causes number of changes and effected the economic growth, employment of the people, health problems, education etc and while considering these issues justice delivery system is one of them where drastic change took as it's disrupted the physical Court proceeding .Due to the requirements of maintaining social distance as per the norms of lockdown directives to keep ourself safe created a situation where the courts and tribunals were closed for the public. However, given that a complete shutdown of the justice delivery system is unacceptable, the judicial bodies have used various technologies to address the challenges raised by the pandemic.Further the lower Courts and quasi-judicial bodies, have followed the directions of the Apex Court, and have conducted hearings online.


Issues with regards to the Virtual Court

But there are certain reasons due to which made the entire virtual proceeding not commendable and these are given below -


1) The online process of functioning has not completely accepted by all judicial and quasi-judicial institutions all over the States.


2) Moreover those bodies either judicial or non judicial, or administrative Institutions those who are using this system have only been employing it for select matters with respect to hear and dispose of urgent/extremely important issues that is required to be decided earlier.The present situation is completely unpredictable, as it's difficult to share ones view as how far it will be require to follow the norms with respect to the 'social distancing' directives and various restriction a in many areas.


Use of Virtual Court and it's acceptance to an extent

After 25th of March 2020, the Supreme Court of India is using the the means of virtual system in order to provide timely delivery of justice.The Apex Court has laid down a series of guidelines in order to implement those procedure which endures e-filing as well as online hearing and further it formed a system of helpline in order to help the advocates in submitting the petitions. The apex court gave direction to the lower courts to continue court proceedings through videoconferencing due to a nationwide lock-up and restricted the entry of advocates and other workers in view of the need to preserve physical distance.Thus, it shows the Virtual courts may in future can be useful and can become an vital part of Judicial System in the state as it is able to introduce emerging technology to direct the delivery of justice in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The date of the session of the virtual courts shall be reported in the respective case lists, which shall be issued well in advance.


India, E-Justice has been used as an organ of e-Governance. The Judicial system of India consists of 15,000 courts. Efforts for computerization have been underway since 1990. It was called MMP Project Mission Mode.E-courts shall make it possible to accomplish different aims to assist the judicial administration in streamlining cases, to minimise pendency and litigation expenses, to include databases, to ensure E-filing, E-notifications, video conferencing of witnesses, digitally signed court orders, digitalized ADR. The ApexCourt of India had launched an latest application which can be used for translating judgements into 9 languages and that will be helpful for law students, academicians as well as the Judges and lawyers of lower Court.


In the case of Swapnil Tripathi V UOI.(2018) 10 SCC 628, the Supreme Court has given it's view and highlighted the necessity of live streaming of the case and required to used for the legal proceedings, thus the Tele Justice facility is also in use. The Honorable Top court had highlighted by the latest case where , the Delhi High court established two virtual courts to settle traffic challans.In particular, Chief Justice of India, Shri SA Bobde, said that"Technology is here to stay." Justice Chandrachud recently stated that virtual courts are launched and approved by the Indian Judicial system with the purpose to make citizens believe that we value your time.


Due to the advancement in science and technology the open court of all over the nation and of course across the country can act in such a manner to protect the rights and privileges of citizens amid the pandemic.Moreoverz The Delhi High Court has passed a bail order during the time when the accused was asked to appear for video call snd the investigating officer and send his pins on google map. Apart from that , the Kerala Bar Council conducted the enrollment programme of the lawyers online.


Artifical Intelligence and it's relevancy in the legal system

Artifical Intelligence can be utilized for the purpose of repetitive, mathematical sections of judgments, grant parole, pardon, and assist judges in delivering judgments. We need to address the challenge of automation bias posed by AI before the AI system is implemented.Since the first step in the 1990s, our country has come a long way. Modernizing courts and procedures would ensure speedy justice and allow litigants to reach the court without fear. The Government's Digital India Campaign will play an instrumental role in this.


Problem of Digital Illiteracy

Further due to absence or improper growth of literacy among the population has also served as a bane in fully digitising the database. For many attorneys, virtual courts and their structure are difficult to follow. This leads to an abstract demarcation between the privileged and the unprivileged in our world.Many scholars are in support of the fact that full adopting of digitization is not sufficient enough for the Indian scenario, however the advocates are fully trained in this aspect. In addition, small shops functioning in the Subordinate Courts are likely to lose their livelihoods in the event of undue reliance on the virtual court.


Threat to Open Courts

Open courts mean that the general people has the means to observe court hearings as a reporter, intern, and spectator. As per Section 153B of the CPC, section 327 of the CrPC it ultimately focus on specific legal provisions. Digital courts limit access to the public at large.


Demeanor of Witness and Recording of False Evidence

Virtual hearing - In case of Virtual hearings , it's become difficult for the judge to scrutinize and examine the facial expressions and bodily movement which are usually considered in ascertaining the truth, further that may lead to the threats of identity thefts.


However due to the arrival of Covid-19, it has formed it necessary to have virtual courts instead of Physical Court room. In order to maintain social distancing as per the norms, there is a urgent requirements to replace the physical Court and legal proceedings in the Physical Court and to adopt a new mode .However, this shall not become the new and at the beginning it has explained on the requirement of technology and its role in judicial proceedings in India, and then elaborated on the judicial proceedings in the light of COVID-19, i.e. the measures taken to restrict the spread of disease in courtrooms which includes to maintain social distancing, sanitization of the court premises, temperature sensors at the entrances, closing of the premises, e-filing.


The Court commented on the initiatives of the Court in order to ensure access to justice in the shutdown, which refers that justice should be served immediately after the shutdown, the hearing of the cases began on video conferencing and the e-filing system. However at the time of lock-up, about 3049 civil cases and 90,700 criminal cases were filed and 832 civil cases and 40,095 criminal cases were resolved by the courts.

E-courts: the Court considered the importance of the e-courts project. The E-Committee of the Apex Court has given attention on different aspects of the introduction of technology into the Indian Judiciary. The following are the things discussed in the lecture:


Long-term behind-the-scenes work has been done on the implementation of the appropriate infrastructure, training of staff through webinars and courses, software testing and feedback are invited from the bar.Further In order to ensure access to justice while the time of this pandemic, for the hearings and Court processing virtual platforms are used and the orders are issued in compliance with Article 142 of the Constitution.


Under the e-filing system, case filings can be done at any time , there is no restriction on that , in this way all the documents submitted are duly checked virtually, further all the defects are considered through online, documents are filed online and fees are paid online. The E-pay module has been developed with SBI and other banks.After that a committee was formed where there was 5 judges in the e-committee and their main object was to give emphasis on a model for video-conferencing rules and to establish the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for digitization purpose as well as ,SOP in order to form e-filing all over the nation, to form certain rules and regulations for live streaming of cases, to form SOP in order to form inter-operability of the criminal law system and SOP for inter linking of the law libraries all over the country.


The phases of e-court project: the initial phase with regards to the e- court project started from February 2007 to March 2015 where capital infusion of Rs. 935 crores was done.


Dispute containment-Only certain conflicts that need settlement can be brought before the court. On-line mediation and conciliation should be facilitated.


Disagreement Avoidance – Steps should be taken to ensure that there is no disagreement about an issue. Technology may be seen as a way of allowing the dismissal of conflicts to be included within the jurisdiction of the case.


Legal health- Awareness and access to justice should be improved. The misconception today is that you need to be a lawyer to understand that you need a lawyer. The lack of awareness of human rights and solutions can be minimised or stopped by growing understanding and disseminating information through the use of technology.The E-courts project must run on the Open Access Application Programming Platform (API) platform. Free APIs should be made accessible to both government and private people..


Conclusion

Thus with the advancement in time and development in Science and knowledge, new measures should be taken do that the virtual court system can be easily accepted all over the world especially for the pandemic in order to maintain social distancing.


References

(1)https://www.indialegallive.com/top-news-of-the-day/news/virtual-courts-can-it-replace-open-court-hearings

(2)https://www.latestlaws.com/articles/virtual-courts-the-new-normal/#:~:text=Justice%20recently%20remarked%20%E2%80%9C%2virtual,of%20citizens%20during%20the%20pandemic.

(3)https://itatonline.org/articles_new/the-future-of-virtual-courts-and-access-to-justice-in-india-by-dr-justice-d-y-chandrachud/

(4)(2018) 10 SCC 628]