A significant reform prompted by COVID-19 is underway in India’s Justice System. While in India the legal system was rooted in customs and practices of the past, the ‘Corona days’ are equalizing.
The National Policy and Action Plan on Enforcement of ICT in the Indian Judiciary-2005, led by the Committee of the Supreme Court, given an important move in this direction. The Supreme Court electronic Committee is now being headed by Hon.Justice DY Chandrachud.
However, progress was a little late for several reasons: one of the prominent ones was the attitude of resistance among stakeholders, which is actually a huge project for making the ordinary person more available.
Nonetheless, things changed because of this pandemic and the program was forced to move online with videoconferencing hearings. Although the system initially failed, it often takes a while to acclimatize.
The benefits are appreciable, for example a lawyer sitting in Mumbai doesn’t have to miss a hearing in the morning in Bombay High Court just because he could not get a flight or must attend another important hearing the next day or say in the afternoon in Supreme Court. The litigants can watch the proceedings from their home as well, who might have not got a place in the courtroom. Along with this, filing processes going online will have actual time-stamping and will pave way for a robust record management system.
The e-filing module of the Supreme Court has been introduced recently by Hon’ble Justice SA Bobde, Chief Justice of India, for the first time. Justice Bobde underlined the need to improve over time and the usability of technology and their contribution to the justice system in India.
Judge Chandrachud recently addressed the blended style in a webinar, which showed how the future needs to look for a balanced combination of hearings in open courts. For the places where it is most appropriate, virtual courts will be promoted.
Justice System 4.0 will now look beyond computerization or digitalization. The use of AI and other prediction methods will assist with the administration of justice. A well-designed virtual courtroom will make justice for those who have not been able to afford it until now due to geography or a lack of resources to promote Justice Reform 4.0.
Judge Chandrachud said during one of his interviews in 2017: “Technology is important so far as it promotes efficiency , transparency and objectivity in the field of public management (in the field of the guarantee of rule of law). Innovative technology encourages us to do more and to start using technologies that can enhance reasoning abilities, such as artificial intelligence. Innovative technology helps us. The aim is not to substitute the human brain, but to provide judges with useful resources to analyze the procedures they implement, to revalue their work, to make sure the decisions are more reliable , consistent and eventually more accessible to the public.
This requires time to consider modern technologies, which will be acceptable to anyone in the Y2 K transition. It could now be the blended mode or the judicial authorities open to use the technology to serve the poorest in this country who, due to their lack of sufficient means, often do not have access to the majesty of courts.
This lock should be considered by the Indian judicial system, as Richard Susskind’s 2019 book ‘Online Courts and the Future of Justice‘ identified, as an opportunity to rethink court as a ‘service’ rather than as a ‘site.’