Technology is frequently considered as having the transformative power to make societal institutions more democratic, accessible, accurate, and fair, in addition to more efficient. Nowadays, technology is employed in a variety of public services, including welfare, criminal justice, healthcare, and national security, not only to improve the effectiveness of those services but also increasingly to automate some decision-making processes or even completely replace humans. In line with this trend, the courts have been working on digital uplift projects for a while. In addition to the widespread adoption of technology, several nations are considering the deployment of more complex applications, such as well-known and fairly self-explanatory digital filing and discovery. Many people are wondering if artificial intelligence (AI) applications such as machine learning (ML) techniques should be used to aid tribunals and the judiciary in making decisions, and how it would change the function of judges.
The ICT enablement initiative for the Indian judiciary was considered to need to be mission-critical. The legal community as a whole recognized the necessity of developing a national policy and action plan with the right distribution and phasing to implement ICT in courts across the country and their web-based interlinking. In a letter dated July 5, 2004, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) suggested to the Central Government the creation of an E-Committee to assist him in developing a National Policy on the computerization of the Indian Judiciary and to offer guidance on managerial, technological, and communication-related changes. The letter was addressed to the Minister of Law and Justice. The Union Cabinet agreed that creating such a committee was a good idea and approved the proposal. As a result, the Ministry of Law and Justice (Department of Justice) issued an office order on December 28, 2004, creating the E-Committee, headed by retired Karnataka High Court Judge Dr. Justice G.C. Bharuka, along with three other expert members. The E-Committee was also tasked with creating an action plan with the proper phasing for time-bound implementation as well as a national policy on computerizing the justice delivery system. This Committee must also continuously review and assess the action plan regularly. The Report on Strategic Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in Indian Judiciary was written by the E-Committee and delivered to the CJI on May 11, 2005. On this occasion, the Supreme Court judges as well as prominent attorneys and executives from the Department of Justice, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, and NIC were present. The Honourable CJI distributed the E-Committee Report to the Chief Justices of all High Courts, requesting that they carefully study the recommendations made therein and submit any suggestions they may deem appropriate. Leading jurists, academics, concerned Ministers, and ministries of the Union Government, including NIC, have also received copies of the Report. At the Law Ministers Conference held in Shimla on June 11, 2005, the Report was also made accessible to the law ministers of all the States, and extensive debates regarding it took place. To determine the current situation of the technology, the E-Committee also had extensive discussions with a wide range of ICT-related businesses, service providers, research and development professionals, and top manufacturers. Its application is in terms of court-related procedures, cost, accessibility, security, implementation, scalability, sustainability, change absorption rate, and support systems. The E-Committee framed the current National Policy and Action Plan for its implementation over five years from the date of its effective start based on the inputs obtained from persons with expertise in varied domains pertinent to change management in the Indian Judiciary.
THE PHASES OF THE ACTION PLAN OF NIP
Phase 1: The beginning of the ICT. the Indian judicial system’s implementation.
Objective: To provide judges with computer facilities, this step of the process required analysing the current information and communication technology setup of the judicial system.
Phase 2: Coordination of the court system’s information and communication technology infrastructure.
Objective: Creating the necessary ICT and court system support infrastructure is the goal.
Phase 3: Information and communication technology coverage of all administrative tasks as well as the entire court process, from filing to execution.
Objective: Millions of document folders or files will be delivered digitally and stored with a physical copy as well, according to the objectives.
ABOUT THE POLICY
- The e-committee for the project’s implementation is the primary organization on the committee.
- A web portal called Indian judiciary. in Indian courts. it would be created by the e-committee and contain cases and decisions from the High Court and Supreme Court.
- judicial administration staff and judge training.
- The development of new technical infrastructure and the improvement of current infrastructure. Wi-Fi systems, digital recording rooms, video conferencing rooms, etc. are a few examples.
- The digitization of judicial precedents and statutes.
- The connection between law libraries.
ADVANTAGES OF THE POLICY
- It will aid in streamlining daily operations for the court’s judicial administration.
- To aid in the operation of the justice system.
- A decrease in the matter’s bindingness.
- Giving transparency to give transparency.
- To give judges access to judicial and legal databases.
- Management of the needed number of judges is necessary.
- To enhance the court systems for case management.
- Accountability is the result.
- People are no longer forced to go to court every day or every other day, which reduces traffic in the courts.
- Less expensive, more widespread involvement.
- Supports the idea of an e-court.
DISADVANTAGES OF POLICY
- A lack of available funding.
- The court oversees other organizations’ inadequate institutional arrangements for information communication technology planning and implementation.
- A lack of qualified personnel and enough training.
- Insufficient communication between service providers
- Using obsolete hardware and software, among other outdated systems.
- Security issues.
- The court must rely on external organizations for technical support over which the administration has little control. The electronic library is not updated.
While technology is influencing many facets of contemporary life, many labor-intensive businesses are falling behind. Information and communication technology (ICT) integration into courts can be very advantageous for their effective functioning while being difficult. The adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) will lead to the emergence of two types of courts because actual courts or courtrooms cannot vanish overnight. Therefore, courts can be used for either of the two scenarios: either they can manage minor, unimportant disputes that can be resolved after a few hearings, or they can handle protracted, time-consuming trials.
However, it would be preferable if physical courts handled the majority of criminal cases because they sometimes require a lengthy period to resolve. In the upcoming days, it may be difficult to conduct a trial, examine the witnesses, cross-examine the witnesses, take an expert’s statement, and then declare the suspect guilty or innocent on internet platforms, particularly in an open court. Therefore, it would be preferable if minor and insignificant cases could be handled online while the latter is handled in courtrooms. With the establishment of e-courts across India, the present administration is providing litigants with a more effective and economical means of conducting their business. The ability of everyone to attend court from anywhere in India will help courts settle conflicts in a way that is far more transparent and reasonably priced. The courts would benefit from having more data stored and available on their websites at all times.
Everyone, including India, which had not previously acknowledged the benefits of information and communication technology, received a wake-up call from the global pandemic (ICT). We may be assured that justice would able to be served without the courts coming to a complete halt if we ever faced another horrific pandemic like this one. Information and communication technology (ICT) will therefore help to manage the judicial system in particular as well as the legal system as a whole in the future. It will mark a pivotal stage in the development of Indian law and significantly increase public trust in the country’s judicial system. Additionally, there can be a rise in foreign direct investment once investors learn about the better performance of Indian courts.
Author(s) Name: Aditya Raj (Bharti Vidyapeeth New Law College, Pune)