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TECH SAVVY JUDICIARY – DIGITIZATION OF THE JUDICIARY

INTRODUCTION

Technology is now integrated into our lives in almost every aspect. The Indian judiciary is also adopting technology quickly. The Supreme Court, High Courts, and District Courts are adopting new ways to harness modern technology to make “access to justice” easier and faster. The judiciary recognizes the role of technology and is working towards more inclusion of technology in the daily workings of the court. This was only accelerated by the COVID pandemic which forced the courts to adopt technology to function in a nationwide lockdown where large physical gatherings were not possible.

Digitization and modernization of the court are a necessity. The courts are adopting technology on a wider scale than ever before. This digitalization of the court can be revolutionary in making the working of the court easier. Emerging technology like artificial intelligence can assist the working of the court and make access to the legal profession easier. Indian judiciary is rapidly adopting various benefits he technology, and there are several ways the technology is utilized by the judiciary. Technology and digitalization hold a lot of promise for India. The Indian government and judiciary are working together to ensure the transition towards a technology-based judicial system. The E-courts project is a part of the national e-governance plan.

E-COURTS PROJECT

The Pan-Indian eCourts Mission Mode Project is overseen and funded by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India, on behalf of all District Courts in the country.[1] The ‘National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Indian Judiciary – 2005’ submitted by the Supreme Court of India’s e-committee served as the foundation for the creation of the eCourts Project, which aimed to transform the Indian Judiciary by providing Courts with ICT.[2]

The E-committee was formed in response to a proposal from the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India to assist him in developing a national strategy for the computerization of the Indian judiciary and to give recommendations on management and communication-related improvements in technology.[3]

The project is implemented in three phases:[4]

The first phase of the project began in 2007 and focused on the installation of hardware, a LAN, and Case Information Software (CIS) that provides basic details of cases to litigants and lawyers. This phase focused on the computerization and digitization of a large number of distort and taluka courts. District courts launched their website, and judicial offices and staff were trained in the use of CIS.[5]

The second phase of the e-courts project focused on the computerization and digitization of courts uncovered in Phase I and also on national and state legal services authorities. To expand beyond ordinary remands and the production of convicts awaiting trial, Phase II includes provisions for all remaining court complexes to be connected with jails and desktop video conferencing systems. It will progressively be expanded to encompass as many different sorts of situations as feasible and utilized for capturing evidence in delicate instances as well. The Phase-II program includes a Judicial Knowledge Management System that includes an Integrated Library Management System and the usage of Digital Libraries, with a focus on the capacity building of judicial officers and process re-engineering.[6]

The project also focuses on making the delivery of information easier and more efficient. The websites are planned to be accessible and compliant. The websites are to be in the local language to the extent it is feasible. The judiciary plans to use SMS, mobile apps and e-mails to the best of its ability to share information. An e-payment gateway for payment of fees, fines, etc. certified copies of documents will be provided online.[7]

Supreme Court has recently issued a document outlining the vision of phase III of the e-courts project which is yet to implement.[8] The E-court project is a milestone project in changing the way the judiciary works now. The project has some significant achievements and has some major plans to further progress the inclusion of technology in the judicial system of India. The E-court project has made significant progress and has some significant achievements and has ambitious future initiatives. From the creation of the large online database and development of the app, and making large amounts of data and judgment online the project is proving to be successful in adopting Information and Communication Technology (ICT) initiatives in the administration of justice.[9]

THE CURRENT USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE INDIAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM

In the recent past, the Indian judicial system has been making headlines for its adoption of technology. The Supreme Court recently started live streaming some of its cases.[10] Before the Supreme Court, Gujarat High Court became the first High Court to live stream its proceeding.[11] The Supreme Court recognized how live streaming is in the interest of transparency and open court in Swapnil Tripathi v Supreme Court of India.[12]

Punjab and Haryana High Court recently used ChatGpt in the case for a bail deciding for bail.[13]An AI-based live transcription tool was used by the Supreme Court, where live transcription of hearings was recorded.[14]An AI portal called SUPACE is also launched to assist in research.[15] National Judicial Data Grid is also an online database built as part of the eCourts Project that contains a database of orders, judgments, and case records from 18,735 District & Subordinate Courts and High Courts.[16]

Adoption of technology by the Supreme Court can help the court reduce the pendency of cases and reduce the time taken to complete the number of procedures involved in the daily working of the court, options like giving testimony through video conferencing can save a lot of time for litigants who have to travel to the high court and supreme court on every hearing costing them money and their time. The accused can also be presented before the court saving manpower and time to transport the accused from jail to court. The case delays because the parties could not reach the can be easily avoided with video conferencing.

Online filing of documents also makes the functioning of the court easier, from registering FIR online to filing RTI applications makes it easier for citizens to exercise their rights without facing uncooperative officers and also helps them save time. Certified online documents can make storing the data easier as compared to a large number of files in courtrooms and police records. The daily updates can be just uploaded online and accessed whenever required. The paper records of cases that are fifteen and sixteen years old can become difficult to read. These problems will not exist in the case of digital records. The digitalization of case files can make storing and accessing information much easier. Technology also comes in handy when we try to make access to information easier.

HURDLES TO THE ADOPTION OF TECHNOLOGY

It is no doubt that technology will make the work of the court easier and a digital revolution is a force for better in the Indian judicial system but it has some disadvantages and hurdles. The biggest risk in this system is a large amount of data of various individuals containing sensitive personal information will be prone to hacking. Any step towards digitization should also be coupled with data protection.

The transition toward digital judiciary is also not made easy by the fact that there is a lack of digital literacy in India. The digital divide can affect people who are not adept at technology in a negative way. The lack of connectivity and available technology in many parts of the country is a major hurdle. The litigants in court will come from all over the country, with different cultures, backgrounds, and education levels and the justice system has to be flexible enough to address the need of all these people. Training the current staff in the court, judges and lawyers who are used to traditional ways is also a significant challenge.

CONCLUSION

The adoption of technology is essential for our judicial system. It is a revolutionary step towards a new technology-based judicial system that is faster, more efficient, easily accessible, and more transparent. The e-courts project is a game-changing project that is focused on the computerization and digitization of our current judicial system. The more tech-based judicial system offers numerous advantages compared to our current system. The project has already made significant achievements and has ambitious future targets. There are several ways in which technology has already changed the way the courts work and the future seems promising. However this transition to technology also poses some challenges, the first is data protection other hurdles include a lack of digital literacy, the digital divide and low connectivity in India.  Technology has changed the way our world works judiciary was slow to catch up with the technological revolution around and it is time the judiciary catch up to it.

Author(s) Name: Samriddhi Mishra (National Law University, Odisha)

Reference(s):

[1] ‘E-Courts Mission Mode Project’ (E-Committee SCI) <https://ecommitteesci.gov.in/project/brief-overview-of-e-courts-project/>accessed 22 June 2023

[2] ‘E-Courts’ (National Informatics Centre) <https://www.nic.in/products/ecourts/>accessed 22 June 2023

[3] E-Courts Mission Mode Project (n 1)

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] ‘Vision document for Phase III of eCourts Project’(E-Committee SCI) <https://ecommitteesci.gov.in/vision-document-for-phase-iii-of-ecourts-project/> accessed 22 June 2023

[9] ‘Significant Milestones achieved under the e-Courts Project’ (E-Committee SCI) <https://ecommitteesci.gov.in/significant-achievements/> accessed 22 June 2023

[10] Krishnadas Rajgopal, ‘In a first, Supreme Court live-streams Constitution Bench proceedings’ The Hindu (New Delhi, September 27, 2022) <https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-live-streams-constitution-bench-proceedings/article65940871.ece> accessed 23 June 2023

[11] Mahesh Langa, ‘Gujarat High Court the first to live stream proceedings’ The Hindu (Ahmedabad, October 26, 2020) <https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/gujarat-high-court-begins-live-streaming-of-proceedings-on-trial-basis/article32944091.ece> accessed 22 June 2023

[12] Swapnil Tripathi v Supreme Court of India (2018) 10 SCC 639

[13] Jagpreet Singh Sandhu, ‘In a first, Punjab and Haryana HC turns to ChatGPT for view on bail in murder case’The Indian Express (Chandigarh, March 28, 2023) <https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/in-a-first-hc-turns-to-chatgpt-for-view-on-bail-in-murder-case-8522544/> accessed 23 June 2023

[14] ‘In a first, Supreme Court begins live transcription of its hearings using AI’ The Indian Express (New Delhi, February 22 2023) <https://indianexpress.com/article/india/supreme-court-live-transcription-hearings-ai-8458294/> accessed 23 June 2023

[15] ‘CJI launches top court’s AI-driven research portal’ The Indian Express (New Delhi, April 7, 2021) <https://indianexpress.com/article/india/cji-launches-top-courts-ai-driven-research-portal-7261821/> accessed 23 June 2023

[16] ‘The National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG)’ (DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,) <https://doj.gov.in/the-national-judicial-data-grid-njdg/#:~:text=National%20Judicial%20Data%20Grid%20(NJDG)%20is%20a%20database%20of%20orders,platform%20under%20the%20eCourts%20Project.> accessed 22 June 2023