By Adv Akshay Kshirsagar on 24th Jan 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic showed that India’s court system, which was mostly based on face-to-face interactions before, needed to use technology. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) needs to keep the judicial process going, even if there are problems in the future. People think that you need to be in court in person for justice to be done. But as technology has improved, computers and the internet have made it possible for court proceedings to take place virtually. The Indian legal system was slow to adopt Information and Communication Technology at first, but the pandemic has quickened up the process.
In August 2005, the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) were made by the E-Committee of the Indian Judiciary. One of the most important needs listed in the National Policy 2005 was the need for all court complexes to use the same software. This would make the judicial system work more smoothly and in sync.
This was needed because reports from the high courts and district courts showed that the application software made for Indian courts wasn’t the same and was made by local developers using the platforms and database management tools of their choice.
In March 2022, the government of India reports to parliament that there are about 47 million cases pending in Indian courts. There were 70,154 cases pending in the Supreme Court alone, and the 25 high courts has a total of 5,894,060 cases pending.
Kaleeswaram Raj, a top lawyer at the Supreme Court, talked about this problem on the World Day for International Justice. He said that Indian courts need a system for internal management to deal with this problem. Also, a way needs to be set up to look at the backlog, improve the way people hire, and come up with a clear plan for bringing things on track.
Also, the system of digital courts, like online courts, needs to grow and get stronger so that most cases can be through the online system. He thinks that this will not only make the judiciary more well-known but also make it less centralized and speed up the process of deciding cases across the country.
As a response to the pandemic, the Indian judiciary has put in a lot of work to use technology to improve the way courts work and make them easier to get to. One of these efforts was to use e-filing more. This allows one to file legal documents electronically and helps in making up for the problems due to lockdowns and social isolation.
In May 2020, the Supreme Court also started using a new system for e-filing and referencing that is powered by artificial intelligence. This can make court services more efficient, clear, and easy for everyone to use.
These efforts aren’t just a short-term response to the pandemic; they also aim to fix long-term problems in the judiciary, like the huge backlog of cases and the high number of open judicial positions across the country. By using technology, the justice system hopes to be more efficient, cut down on wait times, and make it easier for everyone to get justice
Former Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde has said that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is very important for making sure that everyone has access to justice. He said that after the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important for the Indian judicial ecosystem to change in terms of technology so that justice can still be done. Through a suo moto writ petition, the Supreme Court has taken a proactive step by putting out guidelines for video conferencing to cut down on face-to-face meetings.
While these technological advances praise for letting the courts keep working during the pandemic, they have also been subject to criticism by some who say they may not be fully inclusive and may hurt those who don’t know how to use technology or don’t have access to the right tools. Even with these problems, the need for technology in the justice system is becoming clearer, and it is likely that technology will continue to be an important part of justice in the future.
1. Cost-effective: ODR is a more cost-effective method of dispute resolution comparable to traditional litigation. The online nature of ODR eliminates the need for travel expenses, which can significantly reduce the overall cost for the parties involved.
2. Improved access to justice: The adversarial nature of the Indian Judiciary can be overwhelming for a significant portion of the population, making access to justice difficult. ODR takes into consideration these challenges and provides a mechanism for the needs of the people, making justice more accessible to all.
3. Faster resolution: Traditional court proceedings can take a long time to resolve disputes, which can be a major hindrance. ODR is a multi-tier dispute resolution mechanism that is faster as it eliminates unnecessary procedural delays.
4. Increased Flexibility: ODR provides increased flexibility in terms of the time and location of dispute resolution. Parties can participate in the process from the comfort of their own homes or workplaces and can schedule sessions at a time that is convenient for them. This is particularly beneficial for parties who live in remote or inaccessible areas, and may not have the resources or ability to travel to a physical court.
5. Enhanced Confidentiality: ODR can provide enhanced confidentiality for parties involved in a dispute. Online platforms ensure that personal and sensitive information is private and secure, providing an added level of privacy for the parties.
6. Improved Efficiency: ODR can be more efficient than traditional dispute resolution methods. Automated processes, such as document management and scheduling, can reduce the need for manual labour and increase the speed dispute resolution. Additionally, online platforms can streamline the dispute resolution process, cutting down on unnecessary steps and bureaucracy.
7. Greater Access to Expertise: ODR can provide greater access to expertise in specific areas of law or dispute resolution. Online platforms can connect parties with experts or mediators who have the knowledge and experience to effectively resolve disputes in a specific field or industry. This can lead to more effective and efficient dispute resolution outcomes.
Justice Indu and Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, both of whom are well-known judges, have also backed the use of ODR as a way to settle disputes. They have talked about the benefits of putting technology like Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into the Judiciary and the good things that can come from it.
The Judiciary has set important examples that have helped set standards for how technology can be useful in the justice system. In the Kanchan Mehta case, the court agreed that some disputes, such as cheque bouncing, can be solved effectively online.
Technology in the courtroom can help the court process in many ways, such as:
Trial technology can speed up trials, which makes them more efficient. Many legal technologies are easy to use and let lawyers show evidence to judges on laptops, tablets, and other devices, so they don’t have to bring physical evidence or worry about not having enough space. Teleconferencing software can make it easy to call witnesses to the stand, which speeds up the court process.
Better access to information: As courtroom technology has improved, court records have become more accurate, safe, and easy to find. This can make it easier for lawyers, judges, and clients to talk to each other, and it can also make it easier for information to flow between all the important people.
New ways to access evidence: Interactive displays, video testimony, and using multiple screens to show documents are all ways that technology can improve the courtroom experience.
I see two possible reasons behind it, which may seem rude, but that is my opinion.
a. Lack of ability to understand the use of technology by the BENCH.
One is that many judges and advocates face hardship to use technology in their work effectively. This includes a lack of understanding of the various tools and platforms available, as well as the necessary training to use them.
b. Or maybe support of BAR to the hierarchy system.
Another reason is the hierarchy system within the legal profession, where older, more established members of the legal community may be less open to new technology, seeing it as a threat to their status and their ranking.
The world is changing so fast, and we are still riding on elephants. Guess how far can we go?
Many say, adopting technology may lead to privacy