A Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to High Courts to take appropriate steps to adopt uniform procedure for case registration, use common judicial terms, phrases and abbreviations and make the court fee uniform.
The PIL has been filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay through Advocate Ashwini Kumar Dubey.
According to the PIL, the petitioner with an objective of ‘Uniform Judicial Code’ in mind, tried to inculcate a comparison of the phrases, terms and codes used in the benches of the Allahabad High Court and found huge difference in terminology used by the two benches of the Court.
The petitioner persists upon establishing the non-requirement of different sets of ‘Case Types’ in both benches of the same High Court. Such differences in terminology can be seen in all the High Courts. All the 25 High Courts across the country have different usage of the phrases when it comes to identifying different cases. In exercising powers, both the benches of the Allahabad High Court exercise the same powers. What draws a line between these benches is that they hear different types of cases, so in a way, there is no clash of powers so as to say that one is subservient to another, said the Petition.
The Petitioner submitted that the Bombay High Court exercises jurisdiction over the State of Maharashtra, Daman & Diu, Goa and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. The principal seat of this Court is in Bombay and its benches are in Aurangabad, Nagpur and Panaji (Goa). It is projected how the 3 benches use different terminologies for a particular case type which is clearly uncalled for and projects a set of concern in identification for advocates practicing before these benches of this Court.
It is highlighted in the PIL that the differences in terminologies exist not only in the High Courts of several States but also within the Benches. The Rajasthan High Court has two benches and both of them have several different case types. As such there are even some case types that exist in Jodhpur Bench and not in Jaipur Bench. In addition, both the Benches have several varied descriptions with respect to case types (terminologies).
The petitioner alleged that injury to citizens is extremely large because the court fees sought for similar types of matters, and that of similar valuation in different States under the jurisdiction of different high courts are different. It must be noted that judicial equality is a matter of constitutional right, its differentiation based on the jurisdiction of courts violates the Right to equality enshrined under Article 14 which states that ‘the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within India’ and Article 15 which states that ‘the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them’.
“Unequal court fees in different states discriminate among citizens based on their place of birth and residence. Moreover, it promotes regionalism, hence it is a clear violation of Articles 14-15.”
The PIL further highlighted that terminology used by different High Courts for different types of cases are not uniform. This non-uniformity causes inconvenience not just to the general public but, in many cases, to the advocates and the authorities as well. Not just the terms used by them to refer to the same types of cases are different but even the abbreviations used to refer to these terms are different in case the same term is used.
“However, a total of 32 case types in the Bombay High Court do not provide an adequate description of the abbreviation provided.The Principal Seat of Bombay High Court at Bombay has a total of 330 case types with only description given but no abbreviations. The Bench at Nagpur has a total of 77 case types with only description but no abbreviations. The Bench at Aurangabad has a total of 61 case types with only description but no abbreviations,”
-the PIL states.
It is brought to the notice of the Top Court that with regards to the matters pertaining to the virtual hearing of cases, there is no uniform set of procedures which is being followed across various high courts of the country.
The courts may be used for disposal of cases where there may be proactive admission of guilt by the accused or proactive compliance of the cause by the defendant on receipt of the summons in electronic form. Such matters may be treated as disposed of after the payment of the fine, claimed the PIL.
“The Supreme Court (SC) firmly guarded its ‘virtual courts framework’, saying that the institutional prerequisite was to guarantee the ‘administration of justice’, which shall not disintegrate despite the pandemic.”
It is suggested by the petitioner that the court will need to develop a well-defined framework supported by an accessible platform and direct e-court system in India. India also needs to harp on advanced infrastructure to run an e-court system that eradicates the digital divide, simultaneously upping judicial functioning.
While the digitized judicial systems give some semblance of convenience for the people who interact with the court, digitization also brings threats of intrusion etc. For the same, these systems must be secured and encrypted to protect and restore extensive information of the court.
“Further, the Centre has formulated a committee to operate the e-court system. But the bureaucracy should be trained effectively to cope with changing systems and digitalisation. Moreover, all persons dealing with the law within the court, including judges and lawyers, should be made familiar with new systems. It is essential that apart from skilling, the interface of such systems must be user-friendly without complicating access to information or the law,”
-reads the PIL.
It is pertinent to note that the petitioner further seeks direction to the Law Commission of India to prepare a report in consultation with the High Courts in order to make judicial terms, phrases, abbreviations, case registration and court fee uniform.