24th March 2020, 14:17
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| | Will coronavirus force Indian courts to finally adopt tech?
| Courts down: The Supreme Court on Monday decided to seal the chambers of lawyers in and around its premises and said that only one court would hear "extremely urgent matters" through virtual means in view of the coronavirus outbreak. The Kerala High Court also decided to shut down till April 8 except for emergency functions. Other high courts have restricted their functioning too. |
Tech brings justice: Covid-19 appears to have injected some impetus for innovation in the highly traditional SC. The court was, on Monday, scheduled to experiment conducting hearings without the presence of lawyers by using a video-conferencing facility, basically holding a 'virtual court'. This is how it works: judges sit in the courtroom as usual but with video monitors on their table to hear arguments from lawyers or litigants who will be facing cameras and arguing from another room.
Where's the tech? If one court can function remotely, why not all? If all courts were connected, courts won't need to decrease the number of benches and list only 'urgent' matters when there's a huge backlog of cases. Interestingly, India already has a Supreme Court-monitored 'eCourts' project (the implementation began in 2011) aimed at improving access to justice through digitisation. However, many lower courts, which are often the first point of litigation, still have no digital connectivity. Manual work in courts, even when technology and connectivity can make it faster, is one of the reasons for India's high judicial pendency. According to government data, 3,240 court complexes are enabled with video conferencing facilities under the eCourts project.