TECHNOLOGY AS AN ENABLER OF LAW AND JUSTICE

The Indian Judiciary is terribly overloaded and the disposal of cases has virtually become uncontrolled.”  ~ Former CJI R.M. Lodha[1]

INTRODUCTION

The influence of technology on humans and society as a whole has been incredible. There has been no turning back since civilization transitioned from the stone age to the industrial period, and finally to the technology age. Since then, technology has advanced dramatically. Whether it’s the rising number of digital devices in our beds or new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Virtual Reality, everything has had an impact on how we live, work and think. It has also put us in a fortunate position to rejuvenate our society’s principles, behaviour, and morality. People require a mechanism to rejuvenate virtuous and unethical behaviour in society, and the law serves as a saviour in this regard. Legal guidelines determine what in social behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable. It is a powerful medium for bringing about social change. Every sector in India is being transformed by technology, including the legal landscape. Technology has upended how the legal profession conducts its business. It has evolved from a labour-intensive and lawyer-centred system to a tech-infused, inter-disciplinary competitive marketplace. In today’s modern world, technical breakthroughs have aided law in a variety of ways in influencing society.

THE INDIAN JUDICIARY SYSTEM NEEDS TECHNOLOGY

Seeking justice in a timely and cost-effective manner is the fundamental responsibility of the court. As a consequence, procedures for arbitrating such disputes exist. Procedures that are efficient, fair, and effective are needed. Efficiencies in the sense of delivering excellent value for money are required in the processes. In order to deal with legal matters more efficiently and quickly, the Indian court system must find a solution. In the majority of cases, a decision is not reached for several years. The Indian judiciary is overloaded. Undertrials are often sentenced to jail terms that are far longer than the time they served in prison for the offence they committed. Litigants regularly miss planned court appearances, necessitating a rescheduling of the case. It impairs one’s ability to make quick decisions. The court system in India has received technological aid to speed up reforms in the judicial system.

HOW TECHNOLOGY IS USED NOW IN THE AREA OF LAW AND JUSTICE

India has implemented a number of initiatives to streamline operations inside the court in order to increase efficiency and decrease time spent on the superfluous activity. Voice recognition software, video conferencing to enhance court reach, case management systems and e-registries, automated generation of cause-lists, elimination of physical records through electronic filing and submission of papers, etc. are some of the approaches. The e-courts site is one of the most recent gains forward in judicial reform in recent years. This effort intends to make the judicial system more efficient, time-bound, litigant-centric, affordable, accessible, cost-effective, and responsive using ICT (Information and Communication Technology). An e-court was opened by the High Court of Judicature in Hyderabad in 2016, which serves as the common high court for the two states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh[2]. It has made a significant quantity of data accessible online for free in the decade since its founding.

For example, 5G apps and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are being used in e-courts, as well as virtual reality (VR), machine translation (MT), mobile collaboration, and voice recognition. When it comes to enforcing the law, Supreme Court justices have pondered using artificial intelligence (AI). People, however, should not imagine that judges will be replaced by artificial intelligence.

TECHNOLOGY’S EFFECTS ON INDIA’S COURTS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

COVID-19 has adversely affected access to justice in indescribable ways. The number of attorneys and clients allowed into Indian courts was limited. Due to the high number of pending and listed cases, this had no substantial impact on daily footfall. As a result, several courts decided to limit the listing of cases to those that were “particularly urgent.” The coronavirus pandemic has now engulfed India. The country has been put under lockdown, and the courts have been closed. Millions of plaintiffs are almost denied justice. To circumvent the lockdown, several constitutional courts, notably India’s Supreme Court, are testing using videoconferencing for case hearings like the Smti Geetashree Goswami v. Jadavananda Goswami, 2017[3] case. It is the first time that videoconferencing for cases has been heard by the higher courts. However, hearing chosen cases through videoconferencing has been the standard in several trial courts around the country for more than a decade. They have used videoconferencing services to extend the confinement of convicts awaiting trial. To do this, all jails and court buildings were installed with videoconferencing devices and taught how to use them. Some family law proceedings have been heard and settled by videoconferencing. The Supreme Court of India had 43,713 video conference sessions in 2020, with 1,998 benches meeting from March 23, 2020, to December 31, 2020, to hear cases through digital mode[4]. The experiment was a huge success. Other constitutional courts have also used videoconferencing to hear a few cases without a problem. Videoconferencing technology has made it possible to have easy access to justice, which has several advantages, including reduced time consumption and lesser footfall in overcrowded courts.

CONCLUSION

The word “justice,” as used in our Preamble, has no real significance if it is not delivered promptly to those who need it most. There is a fundamental problem with court cases being overloaded. The most essential thing is to accept it and keep a careful eye on it. A partial answer to this issue may, without a doubt, be found using today’s cutting-edge technology. India and the Indian Judicial System, on the other hand, are technologically behind. Even if all precautions are taken, technical glitches and delays may still occur. Security and privacy are extremely crucial, and focus should be placed on developing a flawless system. To reap the benefits of digitalization, a proactive strategy is required, and courts around the country must demonstrate greater eagerness to accept technology for filing and other supplementary operations. Records in most courts are kept in physical format, either as files or registers. The disadvantage of physical papers is that they are vulnerable to manipulation and deterioration. Furthermore, witness testimony, evidence declarations, and supporting papers are numerous. When technology is used correctly, it has the potential to bend time in ways we never imagined. Several techniques may be used and, as the Digital India initiative expands geographically, scaled up for increased efficiency. In particular, e-filing-based pleading, as well as virtual hearings, are becoming more popular as more time-efficient and ecologically friendly alternatives to hearings in the real courthouse through physical paper petitions.

Author(s) Name: Devashish Bhattacharyya (Amity Law School ,Noida)

References:

[1] K. S. Sai Pavan, ‘Strengthening Courts and Justice with Technology’ (THE LAW REPORTER, 8 May 2020) <https://thelawreporter.in/2020/05/08/strengthening-courts-and-justice-with-technology/> accessed 7 May 2022

[2] Punit Mishra, ‘Unique ID for Judicial Officers’ (India Legal, 30 November 2020) <http://web.archive.org/web/20201130230834/https://www.indialegallive.com/cover-story-articles/il-feature-news/judicial-officers-at-lower-judiciary-to-get-unique-id/> accessed 7 May 2022

[3] Smti Geetashree Goswami v. Jadavananda Goswami (2017) Tr.P .(C) No. 56/ 2014

[4] ‘SC has conducted highest sittings during pandemic’ (The New Indian Express, 7 February 2021) <https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/feb/07/sc-has-conducted-highest-sittings-during-pandemic-2260592.html> accessed 7 May 2022

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