Currently when India and the entire world is stumbling through troubled times badly impacted by coronavirus, life has come to a virtual halt. In India there has been a National lockdown since 25th March, 2020. Which is still continuing, with certain relaxations. Over the lockdown, all economic business and government, public undertaking have come to a standstill. This includes actual functioning of courts and tribunals across the country. The court has suspended work for the next three weeks or has notified minimal sitting. Therefore under the prevailing condition of minimum physical contact and social distancing, it is not possible to hear cases in open courts. It is commonly accepted that timely, independent and proper delivery of Justice in a society is virtual functioning of democracy as it provides a condemnatory check and balance against the function of executive and legislative .The spread of coronavirus and national wide lockdown has upgraded the supreme court and various high courts to conduct judicial proceedings online.
We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works
By- Douglas Adams
TODAY'S COURT; VIRTUAL HEARING AND ARGUMENTS OVER PHONE:-
Many courts have made use of virtual courtrooms arguing that physical hearings are not mandatory for meeting the constitutional stipulation of "open court". On April 6, the supreme court passed an order explaining the reason for working online. The Supreme court of India and High courts are sanctioned to adopt measures required to ensure the vigorous functioning of the judicial system through the use of video conferencing mechanism. Now, with 100 mbps internet speed, advocates have been appearing working from home on virtual screens and few Prime cases have been heard. The supreme court uses email and messaging service for filing matters and conducting business.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) evaluate 4 billion people worldwide are outside the scope of the law, courtrooms and lawyers. Yet there is a massive backlog of cases around 30 million pending cases in India and 80 million pending in Brazil. Virtual courts have been hearing cases in the UK, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Singapore, Peru and Hungary. The Ugandan and South Africa judiciary is using zoom, while New Zealand is using Microsoft teams for virtual hearing. A court In Nova Scotia Canada has recommended that even PDFs and tele-warrants were acceptable. In the US the supreme court is hearing oral arguments via telephone. But in Germany it continues to operate physically, but the federal courts are closed to outsiders.
FIRST VIRTUAL HEARING CASE:-
The court of Justice is a public forum. The virtual court rooma cannot replace the open court hearing system of justice administration. The Supreme Court began conducting Video Conferencing hearings on 27th March, two day after the Narendra Modi Government imposed Nationwide lockdown due to the spread of novel disease (Covid-19). On 26th July 2019 Delhi's first virtual court was launched at the T.Z Hazari court followed by the Punjab and Haryana High court. An Interim care order for unaccompanied child victims of trafficking was granted by Dublin District court in the first virtual hearing of a district court case, according to the Child Care Law Reporting Project (CCLRP). At the outest, the court registrar read out the guidelines for virtual hearing, including CCLRP, kept both their video off and microphone mute. The case would be conducted virtually, without unfairness to the parties. They also warned participants that as the proceedings were covered by the camera rule, there could be no screenshots or recordings done. These virtual hearings brought a breakdown of the relationship between the bar and the bench.
"We have an obligation to continue with the works of courts as a vital public service.
Just as others in the public sector and in a private sectors are doing"
By - Chief Justice of England and wales(March 19)
● Article 145(4) of the Constitution of India provides that No judgement shall be delivered by the Supreme Court than in open court.
● Under Article 143 of Indian Constitution provides that no report shall be made in accordance with an opinion also delivered in open court.
● Also section 153B of Civil Procedure Code and the Section 327 of Criminal Procedure Code also mandates open court hearing in all civil and Criminal cases.
An unpredictable lockdown has crippled the judicial system and reduced its ability to ensure its constitutional mandate of providing access to justice at all times. Covid-19 pandemic has affected the health and wealth of the peoples of India. It also had a great impact in our judicial system. It has caused us to change our mindset and adopt something new which was prohibited in the past. Even the supreme court and almost every high court has been temporarily closed. Courts in India experimenting judicial matters with video conferencing. Best way to release the judiciary's burden is setting virtual courts. Virtual courts and E- Courts are not the same. E-courts are a subset of virtual courts whereas virtual courts are courts that use a remote working system with the help of various software and hardware tools.
Electronic service of summons, notice can exponentially speed up the judicial proceedings. This lockdown can be used by the judiciary system as an opportunity to have many developed court systems and can upgrade the use of technology in the judicial system. This project was launched by the guidance of the E-Committee of the supreme court of India.
Advantages of digital judiciary:-
● It results in complete computerization of the court system
● Parties are no need to come in person, so this makes procedure cost efficient and reduces the travel time and its expenses
● Digital judiciary will eliminate the court expenses and its maintenance
● It imposes flexibility of court to work 24/7
● It controls the spread of covid-19 in the court campus.
Disadvantage of digital judiciary:-
● Problems related to the applicability of evidences
● Difficulties in authentication of the Identity of witness
● Investments in court for upgrading the technology is quite costly
● Confidentiality of court system shall be at great risk
● There may be a chance of threats to security and privacy of datas.
● Speedier justice will result in the deterioration of the quality of the justice
SUGGESTIONS AND CONCLUSION:-
This National wide Lockdown paved a way for the big push in the Indian Judicial System. It aims at fast track disposal of pending cases, the government has been going for major transformation of court rooms into virtual courtrooms, paperless entities and so on. So far 342 jails and 448 district courts have been adopted to these new facilities. However challenges are huge, but we need to overcome that because it is substantial and absolute. It will promote, and level up the standard of the Indian Judicial system and will be the key stone in the history of the judicial system. So by using this present pandemic situation as a opportunity, let's make Indian Judiciary a global player in the field of Judicial system.
Deva Dharshini K
3rd year BA LLB
Chennai Dr Ambedkar Govt Law College Pudupakkam