New Delhi, Apr 11 (PTI) Former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi has called for making virtual hearing a permanent feature of the judicial system, stating that the achievements of a Supreme Court e-committee, which has been around since 2005, have been "inadequate".
He has made this suggestion in his submission to Justice DY Chandrachud, the Chairperson of the SC e-committee, saying the draft report placed by the committee in public domain lacks "any real evaluation of the effectiveness of the earlier efforts and recommendations".
Gandhi, who had set in motion paperless working in the Central Information Commission a decade back said, "The Supreme Court E-Committee has been around since 2005 and it appears its real achievements are inadequate."
Citing the findings of the Committee, Gandhi said the report mentions that a total of Rs. 639.411 crore plus Rs 1670 crore have been spent implementing Information and Communication Technology based systems in courts.
"If I presume an expenditure of 309.411 crore for software and consultancy, it would mean Rs 2,000 crore for hardware. Assuming about 20,000 courts, this would mean an average expenditure of about Rs.10 lacs per court for hardware. This should be more than adequate. Yet, most courts did not function effectively during the pandemic using virtual hearings," he said.
He said as against an increase of four lakh pending cases before courts between 2005-19, just last one year has seen an addition of 75 lakh cases to the pendency.
Gandhi said the Committee mentions setting up of "some Virtual Courts", whereas all courts should be effective virtual courts.
"In fact, I would submit that all courts should be prepared and mandated to allow lawyers and litigants to appear virtually or physically without any specific need to inform anyone or take permissions," he said.
The former Information Commissioner said to achieve this there is no requirement for any serious training, but just ability to use a keyboard, which is a common skill available to any literate person and at best a two-hour familiarisation video should be adequate.
The report acknowledges algorithmic generation of cause lists and lawyer queuing, using e-Courts data, can increase both the efficiency and predictability of case timelines, he said.
"This should be mandatory and an intervention to change the listing should be permitted only to the judges to an extent of less than five per cent
Many other desirable features are mentioned in the report such as Interoperable Criminal Justice System and a lot of sophistication. These could be added later on. "The important thing is to start with hybrid courts," he said.
It should be ensured E-Committee's recommendations and specifications are accepted in all the states, e-Filing made compulsory prospectively, all courts must have the required hardware and offer physical or virtual hearings, Gandhi recommended.
"There may be some cases which require physical presence by the court specifically. Following the cause list generated by a computer program with a maximum override of only five per cent," he added. PTI ABS TIR