Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Investing in E-Courts

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s announcement in 2023 to invest Rs 7,000 crore for Phase III of the E-Courts Project was a timely and welcome investment in the judiciary. What are the implications?

By Prof M Sheila Rani

E-COURTS, referred to as electronic courts, are a significant development in the legal system that incorporates technology into the legal process. These digital platforms offer accessibility, efficiency and transparency while streamlining and facilitating different parts of the litigation process.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, announced in Budget 2023 to invest Rs 7,000 crore for Phase III of the E-Courts Project, which is a significant step towards improving and transforming the existing judiciary in India. The E-Courts Mission Mode Project was suggested by the E-Committee of the Supreme Court based on the National Policy and Action Plan to introduce Information and Communication Technology, ICT, into the Indian judiciary. The government acknowledged the role of transforming the nation’s legal system, demonstrated by this decision.

This huge investment has the potential for the nationwide adoption and improvement of e-courts. It is expected that it will address a number of drawbacks and uphold the new generation of the e-court ecosystem. E-courts need to be built upon a strong digital platform, incorporating cutting-edge technologies for case administration, extending digital accessibility to far-flung places, and improving cyber security protocols to protect legal data.

Furthermore, this allocation has the potential to imbibe the digitisation of case records, streamline administrative procedures and furnish adequate information to the legal professionals with the requisite training and resources to enable them to proficiently adopt and employ advances in technology which will maximise the ease of justice.

More importantly, they overcome the obstacles inherent on location and make it possible for people living in distant places to take part in court cases virtually. This feature can prove to be a game-changer for delayed justice.

Additionally, e-courts help in the ease of digitisation of case e-filing, option for e-payments, paper-less work and case management. This online platform provides information on the case status and judgments which will ensure expedited proceedings, promising timely justice. The real-time information available on the platform ensures safeguarding the time and resources of stakeholders, ensuring readily available access to case information and the status of the trial proceedings.

Live-streaming of the court proceedings is available for the public, including media, which can be digitally recorded and preserved, guaranteeing fairness and making it convenient for parties to access previous hearings. Furthermore, making the court decisions and records available to the public and the e-Seva Kendras which assists litigants and educates the layman with the intricacies of the legal system.

The huge amount which is announced to be invested indicates the government’s strategy for having an efficient, accessible, and transparent judiciary, which also helps with the e-interface platform, helping the needy people with free legal aid services. This investment should greatly reduce the pendency of cases, enhance the reach of justice through the digital revolution and promote an inclusive, technologically advanced judicial system in India.

The development of e-courts promises a digital era judicial system that is more easily accessible, efficient and transparent. However, issues like digital literacy, cybersecurity and ensuring fair access to technology continue to be a challenge. 

—The writer is Assistant Professor, School of Law NMIMS, Hyderabad


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