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Law Ministry terms online hearing as boon for underprivileged litigants

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The Union Law Ministry has appreciated the court’s initiative to hold proceedings online, stating that virtual hearings proved a boon to the underprivileged, saving their time and money.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said the online mode facilities made possible by virtual hearing of court proceedings in the country over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, benefitted a lot of people.

Replying to a question by BJP Member of Parliament Dr Ashok Bajpai, Rijiju said the online mode adopted by the various High Courts and the Supreme Court benefitted the litigants, including the underprivileged, as it helped the litigants to appear before the court from any location of their choice, leading to considerable saving of time and money.

The Minister said it also helped the entire legal ecosystem, including vulnerable litigants to have recourse to justice delivery system, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, when congregational mode of court hearing could not be held due to lockdown and social distancing protocols.

Regarding a government policy or push to continue with virtual hearings for ‘easy access to justice’, the Minister clarified that the decision to do so would be under the purview of the judiciary.

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Rijiju also shared some data on virtual hearings since the onset of the pandemic.

He said since the Covid-induced lockdown started, the District courts heard 1,11,40,223 cases while the High Court heard 60,21,688 cases (totalling 1.71 crore) till January 31, 2022 using video conferencing.

The Supreme Court held 2,18,891 hearings till March 14, 2022 since the beginning of lockdown period.

He also gave details about the number of court complexes and rooms equipped to conduct virtual hearing of proceedings, as also the funds sanctioned in this regard.

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He said a video conference equipment each has been provided to all Court Complexes, including taluk level courts and additionally, funds have been sanctioned for additional VC equipment for 14,443 court rooms.

He further said that funds have been made available for setting up 2506 VC Cabins. Additional 1500 VC Licenses have been acquired and VC facilities are already enabled between 3240 court complexes and corresponding 1272 jails.

Rs 7.60 crore have been released for procurement of 1732 Document Visualisers, he added.

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