News By/Courtesy: Athul Joseph | 27 Jun 2020 23:04pm IST

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Even though the courts have stopped Advocates from coming to court, important matters effecting the life and liberty of citizens are being adjudicated by courts using video conferencing.
  • With the Court taking up over 7,000 cases during the lockdown through video-conferencing, it has become a global front-runner.
  • The current system of holding virtual hearings through video conferencing was a decision taken by the courts to continue the administration of justice.

The urge for necessity pushes for innovative changes in the way we live; the way we run our businesses; the way we conduct our business and even the way we resolve our disputes. Since efficiency, the ratio of output to input has become the buzz word and the focal point of brain-storming sessions in every industry, the legal sector has not been left untouched. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, lawyers and courts have used artificial intelligence-based case management systems that have made legal practice simpler. Since my early days in legal practice, when junior lawyers sprinted from one courtroom to another, keeping track of cases until today, where the case list can be viewed electronically and checked every 30 seconds, there has been a technological redesign of the case management system. I don't know how we were working. The structure of the past has been blurred!

 However, in the Covid-19 cases, we are faced with the unusual task of holding court hearings while maintaining social distance. This is quite a challenge considering the number of people, lawyers, juniors, associates, interns, clients with their supporters. Many courts have been experimenting with different systems to reduce clogging. In these desperate times, the decision of the country's top court to turn to video conferencing to conduct hearings was both timely and successful. While one can only assume that this is a temporary period and that once normality is restored, the demand for social distancing has been eased, things will be as they have been. Nevertheless, there has been an important discussion on the use of Virtual Technology in the justice system, in particular in court trials and the filing of lawsuits. We have a huge 135 crore nation with about 3 crore cases and access to digital technology restricted to a tiny portion of the population. In a judicial system informed by the principle laid down in Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar v. State of Maharashtra [1966] 3 S.C.R 744, which held that Article 19 of the Constitution included the right of journalists to publish reports of court proceedings, thus accentuating the fundamental legal maxim that justice should not only be done but must be seen to be done, a complete turnaround of the court proceedings.

Nevertheless, the much-needed processes for written submissions and time-limited oral hearings will develop in the constitutional courts. Live streaming, as directed by the Supreme Court in the case of Swapnil Tripathi, may help to reduce the jostling crowds that have the right to be heard, but their rights must be balanced against the rights of health and life by optimizing digital technology. The structure of court hearings is also imperative. In all places, the old world must give way to a new discipline. Trials in the courts – typical criminal and civil trials are on a different basis because they include the questioning and cross-examination of witnesses, the processing of proof, the recording of testimony, etc. For example, procedural law in India requires statements to be made in the presence of the judge, this provision guarantees that a statement is made without duty, etc., and thus requires the personal presence of the author of the statement. However, this assurance will be pyrrhic in the case of IT-enabled video conferencing as the entire process is depersonalized. It is impossible to foresee how things will unfold and how the existing network of brick and mortar courthouses can be replaced by virtual courthouses. But what can be said with a great deal of confidence is that the justice dispensation system as we know it is going to change drastically and this transition should be welcomed.

THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT INTEND TO HURT THE SENTIMENTS OF ANY INDIVIDUAL, COMMUNITY, SECT, OR RELIGION ETCETERA. THIS ARTICLE IS BASED PURELY ON THE AUTHOR'S PERSONAL VIEWS AND OPINIONS IN THE EXERCISE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT GUARANTEED UNDER ARTICLE 19(1)(A) AND OTHER RELATED LAWS BEING FORCE IN INDIA, FOR THE TIME BEING.

 

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 28 Jun 2020 10:16am IST


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