In a major development towards speeding up the justice delivery system and reducing pendency, India’s first e-court was inaugurated recently at High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad. The e-court is likely to commence operation from today and will only refer to digitized case records.
Conceptualised by the Supreme Court of India, the e-courts project is being implemented in high courts and district and subordinate courts. E-courts are nothing but paperless courts.
According to The New Indian Express, the Acting Chief Justice of the Hyderabad High Court, Dilip Bhonsale, said at the inauguration that efforts were on to set up other e-courts in Hyderabad. He informed all present at the function that digitization of cases will be complete in a year’s time and e-filing of cases should start from June 2017.
Among the goals envisaged in the e-courts project include providing time-bound services which will enhance judicial productivity while making the justice delivery system affordable, accessible, cost effective and transparent.
According to the Supreme Court e-committee newsletter in May 2016, the government recommended that the National Judicial Data Grid information on pendency in the subordinate courts be used to assess the performance of judges before they are elevated to a higher court. The information on pending cases taken from the National Judicial Data Grid is displayed on the e-courts’ website (www.ecourts.gov.in) as a part of the mission to provide transparency in the judiciary.
During a recent workshop on e-courts conducted by the Supreme Court’s e-courts committee, it was found that summons were still being sent by hand through court staff and not by using emails, speed post, etc. It was revealed that the high courts were yet to update rules to incorporate the use of modern communication methods. Justice Madan Lokur, who heads the Supreme Court e-courts committee, had thereafter directed that relevant changes be made and the new methodology employed as mandated by the 2002 amendment in the Civil Procedure Court. As per the amendment, summons could be delivered also by registered post, speed post or courier services for speedy trial besides a proper officer of the court.
According to a study done by think-tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, some of the factors retarding the e-courts project include delayed funding and poor coordination between the government and the judiciary.
Nevertheless, some progress has been achieved at the ground level, with many recent developments, such as SMS services for lawyers and litigants even in district courts like the Pune District Court. The opening of the new e-court in Hyderabad marks a new era of hope for the project.