The Hyderabad High Court inaugurated India's first ever paperless e-court on Sunday, in a move that is likely be the beginning of a country-wide shift to digitised judicial services. The government is keen on introducing this system across the nation as e-courts have a lot of advantages. Here is everything you need to know about the new system.
The aim of e-courts is to help make legal processes easier and more accessible to people. They work by providing an electronic case (e-case) list to the judge who can then digitally enter notes on the case. The e-case list include physical documents that are usually submitted with the petition in the digital format. These notes will be synchronised with the main database, available to both advocates and people involved in the case. Integrating the system with other public portals such as the police or banks will make it easier to obtain information regarding the cases. The system is expected to make justice delivery system cheap, transparent and accountable by limiting the human interaction involved in the process.
Planning began in 2005
The e-court project was conceived after the 'National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in the Indian Judiciary' was submitted to the Supreme Court, with a proposed plan to make the system more efficient. Phase I of the plan has already been completed with more than 13,000 district and subordinate courts computerised and a unified national application software developed.
Union Cabinet approved Phase II in 2015
At an estimated cost of Rs. 1,670 crore, Phase II was meant to continue the work from Phase I by developing more citizen-friendly facilities such as centralised filing centres and touch screen kiosks. The second phase will also develop mobile applications, computerise 8,000 more courts and enhance the work flow of courts.
Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were the first two states in the country to be chosen for Integrated Criminal Justice System (ICJS) project. The project integrates police stations with courts, jails, the prosecution and with the forensic science laboratories to ensure speedy deliverance of justice. Supreme Court Judge Madan B. Lokur justified the selection of these two states saying AP and Telangana have made a lot of progress. Justice P. Naveen Rao, one of the members of Computer Committee of the High Court, said as many as 1,000 case files had to be digitised initially to make the e-court functional.
You won't be able to file a case online yet
The High Court is currently aiming to launch e-filing of cases by June 2017, asserting that the current courts need to obtain the necessary infrastructure before making it available to public. What has been released, however, is an app for the public, and a SMS scheme that allows advocates to get text messages, updating them on the status of their cases.
More e-courts are due to open soon
This is just the beginning of the e-court, with reports suggesting up to five more such courts will open in the next few months. There will also be a move to digitise subordinate courts. Though it may not be smooth sailing ahead, the new system marks a step towards progress for India's judicial system.