Saturday, December 19, 2009

E-Court of Delhi High Court Has Seen Light of The Day

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday crossed a new milestone in its march to make its proceedings transparent, easier and faster for litigants with the inauguration of the first e-court. As it was already published on IPLex , Fancynew, and E-Courts Blogs regarding the E-Courts in Indian Perspective and its launching schedule. Justice S. Ravindra Bhat inaugurated it. It was a civil court and of the total number of cases listed for hearing for the day, 15 were disposed of in the very first hour. However, lawyers appearing before court had to function manually as the facility was not available to them on the inaugural day. However, as per the project for making the courts of the High Court paperless, they will get connected to the network very soon.

 The key feature of the e-court is the ability of lawyers to make paperless digitised submissions, including submissions where references can be hyperlinked to help the judge (or any other reader) instantly access further information on a given matter. The lawyers will have the facility to view the proceedings on their laptops when they are connected to the network.

 The courtroom now sports a screen, which as yet only passively displays the causelist. But perhaps as time goes by, one may be able to see what exactly the judge can see as well, in order to have the lawyers and the judge - literally - on the same page. Justice Bhat sat with a laptop with a huge electronic screen on the wall in front of him. The screen had been put up in such a way as to allow the lawyers and the Judge to see the cause list at the same time. The Court Master also had a laptop with him to keep him abreast of the proceedings. According to go the project, the High Court will become paperless with digitisation of all works from filing of cases to delivery of judgments within two years.

 According to the The Hindu 15 matters were heard in a matter of just one hour with no paper or files being exchanged. One thing to be careful about is the discomfort caused by staring at the computer screen constantly - the judges may need some extra tips on how to avoid that crick in the neck!

For those of you who want to read more take a look at the e-court presentation that the High Court has put up on its website here.

The E-court committee of Delhi High Court headed by Justice B.D.Ahmad is also considering the possibility of setting up a web portal for broadcasting proceedings of cases that may involve larger public interest.

The court of Justice S Ravindra Bhat looked unlike any other courtroom, with a sleek, wide LCD screen on the wall and a touchscreen handbook replacing the bulky files as the HC launched its first eco-friendly initiative to go paperless and also bring about speedy justice. 

Cumbersome paperwork has been replaced by digitalized files and judges can directly access them on a display monitor. With a target of digitalizing all documents within two years, the court has launched a pilot project which went on smoothly on the first day.

Though 33 matters were listed for the day, around 18 cases were disposed of within the first two hours, which on a routine basis take the entire day. The judge used his special LCD touchscreen to make corrections and his digital signature to certify the copy.

The lawyers gave the concept a thumbs-up, saying there were no glitches during the proceedings. ''We will be able to get rid of our bulky files. Now we have to carry only a USB device or CD of our case, which is much easier,'' said Swagat Sharma, a lawyer who appeared in the e-court. Some counsel, however, still preferred to use their paper files, an option given to them for the time being to enable them to adjust to accessing case files from their laptops

In the next two years, the Court will also create the facility for filing of cases through Internet which will eliminate use of paper in presentation of plaint or petition or appeal and its disposal. All the pleadings, evidence, orders and judgments will be documented and archived on digital media.
The court has already digitalized around 5.5 crore papers pertaining to various cases upto 2007. It is also considering recording the statement of witnesses through video-conferencing to avoid procedural delays.

Since e-filing will require digital authentication of affidavits, vakalatnamas, paper documents with physical 

signatures through suitable biometric devices and online payment of court fees, the Court will also require the help of

 the Delhi Government for providing e-stamps.Accredited agencies will assist the lawyers to get their filing papers 

digitalised on payment of fees, and the rules will also be amended to facilitate it.

Source: The Hindu, 17th December, 2009, The Times of India, 17th December 2009

Dr.Tabrez Ahmad,
Associate Professor of Law,
KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, India,
Research Papers:

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