COVID-19 Crisis: An Opportunity for Legal Reforms

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This post is written by Srishti Rajpoot, a 2nd year law student from Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida.

Introduction-
Indian judiciary is one of the three pillars of democracy. The Indian Supreme Court is the most powerful courts of the World. It is a guardian or protector of law in our country. It gives justice to the people, interpreted various laws and their application and also makes laws. Judiciary is independent of any other organ of our democratic country; due to its independence, people have faith in the judiciary. They have a confident and fearless opinion about the judicial system of our country.

Need for reform in Judiciary-
The justice delivery system faces the biggest challenge ever. Due to the present pandemic COVID-19 the whole country is in a lockdown nowadays. Also, coronavirus cases were detected in various courts. The consequences of the closing of Courts will lead to a harsh effect in future in a country like India where there is already a very large number of cases is pending.
Now it is the time for the judiciary to adopt an alternative to serve justice to common people. It’s time to create a next generation Justice platform. The solution to this is the use of technology in the administration of justice.
Also, this change is essential as the Chairman of Bar Council of India (BCI) claimed in a letter that at least 90 percent of Indian lawyers are technically illiterate. It is a very horrible statement to the whole legal system because it was said in a letter to the Chief Justice of India.
The National Informatics Centre recommended creating a separate platform for video conferencing and E-filing.
In a remarkable judgment of Swanpil Tripathi v. Supreme Court of India it was held that entire judiciary starting with the Supreme Court itself should move toward live streaming of proceedings.
In a 2018 judgment also it was recommended to start live streaming of all the cases of Supreme Court. But it’s all in paper till now.
So, two reforms are made during lockdown period i.e. Video conferencing for hearing and E-filing of cases.

Video Conferencing-
A video conference is a live, visual connection between two or more people residing in separate locations for the purpose of communication. At its simplest, video conferencing provides transmission of static images and text between two locations.
This technology was used in Indian Courts for hearing arguments at both trial and appellant stage and also for recording statement in some cases. It is the first time when video conferencing is connecting bar with bench. This form of proceedings will also increase the public confidence and transparency in court.
The Vidyo app was recommended by the SC for this but it faces some unforeseen linkage issue, may be due to load of work.
The use of video conferencing is based on the principle of open justice i.e. justice should not only be done but also seen to be done. It is also the duty of court to engage with public. This principle was first time laid down in the case of Scott v Scott by House of Lords in United Kingdom.

E- Filing-
Electronic Filing is a process by which one can file a case from any electronic device by particular designed software without going to the Court.
Till now e-filing is mostly done through emails of courts as no particular software was made till now. The Karnataka High Court is providing g-mails of all district Court also.
For this purpose the judiciary is also providing compulsory training. CJI Bobde said on video conference for E filing that this module was established by keeping certain things in mind this is access to justice, simple and inclusive technology, uphold rule of law, artificial intelligence centric would allow information to extract within time.
Also Justice DY Chandrachud remarked that the footprints of pandemic will redefine the function of law we use today. Defiantly by the process of E-filing the justice will reach in the hands of common people easily, that is what the true purpose of serving justice is.

Conclusion-
As it was said that modern problem requires modern solution. Similarly this corona virus crisis requires solution of modern technology. The need nowadays was not only to change the process of litigation but also to change the mindset of people using it. As we have seen the guidelines of lockdown make the use of technology in every field similarly it was required in the field of justice also.
It was said by CJI Sharad Bobde that this cannot be seen as a temporary issue. Technology is here to stay.
So toward modernization and transparency it is one of the biggest steps of Supreme Court of India. However testimony of witness should also be start by the modern technology also the hearing of summons to officers of Executive. This will decrease the delay in justice.
The technology is the future of Indian Judiciary; the age of virtual Judiciary may be coming soon in India and the World.

References-

  1. http://theleaflet.in/supreme-courts-video-conferencing-guidelines-a-welcome-step/
  2. https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2020/05/15/supreme-court-unveils-e-filing-module-to-facilitate-online-filin.html
  3. Image from – https://www.deccanherald.com/sunday-herald/sunday-herald-books/justice-question-693992.html
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