Acknowledging that the COVID-19 pandemic prodded the Supreme Court into going for greater digitisation, Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde on Friday said that virtual courts were here to stay and due to the virus, the judiciary has been provided with a compulsory training to prepare for a new working environment.
“This period has provided us with a compulsory training to prepare for a new working environment. Eventually, it must settle down to a system that is a combination of the new and the old...There is no looking back,” Bobde said at a webinar organised to unveil the e-filing module that has been developed by the apex court’s e-committee to facilitate online filing of cases on a 24x7 basis. This was the first ever webinar to be held under the aegis of the Supreme Court.
Bobde said that the Supreme Court was amongst the first institutions in the country to respond to the danger posed by COVID-19. The court further said that the decisions taken to reduce the footfall by working in a restricted manner and then hearing matters through video-conferencing had saved a large number of people from falling ill.
“We went for video-conferencing to reduce the footfall in court premises. We have to change according to the needs of the times. We have to accept the present situation. There is a need for a change of mindset. Now, there is no going back,” he said.
The new e-filing system, Bobde said, was the basis of a new digital way of working, where Artificial Intelligence would play a great role in organisation of courts and hearings. He said the e-filing module was built keeping some important factors in mind—access to justice, simple and inclusive technology, upholds rule of law, artificial intelligence centric that would allow information to be extracted within minutes.
“E-filing seems to be the route which will ensure that the computer system works wonderfully. There is no doubt that this system of e-filing has received an impetus because of the virus and not necessarily because of our dynamism,” Bobde said.
Bobde said e-filing was the basis of a system based on artificial intelligence, which can extract information at an incredible speed of one million words per minute. “Imagine the help it would have provided in deciding a case like the Ayodhya matter, how fast we could have dealt with it since it could deal with thousands of pages in a minute. And e-filing is a basis of that system,” he said.
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, who heads the e-committee of the Supreme Court, said the apex court and the other 17,000 courts in the country had responded well in overcoming the challenge posed by COVID-19. He pointed out that the Patna High Court heard 450 matters through video-conferencing on Thursday.
“The footprints of the pandemic will redefine how we function tomorrow in ways which may not be readily evident to us today,” Chandrachud said.