Litigants should be able to file cases from anywhere at any time and judges should be able to conduct hearings through video, audio, in-person or in writing.
With this aim, the e-committee of the Supreme Court of India has come out with a proposed vision document and sought suggestions on phase III of the e-court project.
Launched in 2005, the e-court project aims to digitise 19,000 courts across the country and is managed by the apex court’s e-committee headed by Justice DY Chandrachud. For phase I and II, with an overall budget of Rs 639 crore and Rs 1,670 crore, respectively, the e-court project has so far enabled the creation of infrastructure, systems and services for judges, lawyers and litigants.
For phase III, the Supreme Court had tasked legal think-tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, Daksh and Agami to draft the proposal.
A Comprehensive And Updated Repository Of Case Law
The vision document notes that the current case law repository is fragmented between various high courts who maintain their own databases as well as the e-court website. In phase III, the aim is to have a national repository for legal precedents from all courts which will ensure a uniform, reliable and visible database of all case laws.
Digital Case Management Systems And E-Filings
Through a digital case management system, the project aims to ensure that lawyers, clients, registry and judges can access and exchange digital case files from anywhere.
The e-filing method is proposed to be expanded to private complaints before a magistrate as well as notify forms for cases where pleadings are standard such under the Negotiable Instruments Act.
Open Digital Hearings And Providing Copies Of Transcripts
The year of the pandemic necessitated a drastic shift to online courts and for the last one year the top court has been hearing cases over video conference in a hybrid mode.
Now, phase III is mooting to increase the use of digital courts with the aim to reduce travel costs for lawyers and litigants and increase access to justice.
Here’s how the proposal aims to achieve this:
Identifying cases where digital hearings can be used — cases which require complete in-person hearings versus others which may be audio-only linkages or even virtual courts.
The high courts should identify classes or types of cases where in-person hearing is needed and where a virtual hearing can be conducted.
The hearings should be made public through measures such as live streaming of court proceedings or making records of the proceedings freely accessible.
Providing transcript of court proceedings in audio or typed digital format immediately after the order is delivered in a case.
A Digital Case Registry
Phase III of the project aims to build a digital case registry — a collection of case related data such as a unique case number and case type. Scaling this up will enable a common registry across courts and will enable tagging of related cases, enhance visibility of case status for all parties and subsequently help in collation and analysis of data to help in framing better laws, procedures and resource allocation.
The top court has uploaded the proposed vision document on the e-committee’s website. Once the suggestions are considered, the draft will go for approval to the e-committee.