Soon, e-courts may let cases be filed 24/7

Limiting the registry’s role in prioritising cases, Phase 3 of the e-Courts project, currently in the draft stage, has proposed a 24/7 digital window to litigants and lawyers to file cases from anywhere, anytime with the provision of scheduling digital hearings in an open court, ensuring compliance of timelines by both judges and litigants.

Use of artificial intelligence has been proposed to “intelligently recommend schedules for hearing by optimising and coordinating the schedules and time of different actors (judges, lawyers and litigants)”, the draft proposal put up on the website of the justice department seeking stakeholders’ suggestions said.

The Centre’s ambitious e-Courts project, initiated in 2005, has completed two phases so far. At a cost of Rs 2,300 crore, it has computerised almost all 19,000 functional district and subordinate courts with broadband connectivity and equipped judges and courtrooms with modern communication gadgets. The Supreme Court e-Committee is responsible for policy planning and strategic direction.

The next phase of judicial reforms envisages a complete transformation of Indian courts into digital platforms — having facilities of e-Pay, e-Summons, e-Hearings and e-Judgment — where litigants can appear remotely, schedule hearings at his/her convenience and an option of choosing alternative dispute resolution mechanism or a regular case while e-Filing.

It has proposed an interoperable criminal justice system where connectivity between courts, prison and police will be leveraged to ensure speedy trial of cases and limiting adjournments on account of non-appearance of witnesses or unavailability of lawyers. The digital court will provide for a data exchange protocol embedded with a privacy policy. During the second phase of the e-Courts project, more than 3,400 courts were made videoconference compatible, providing connectivity with prisons. These facilities are already available in the Supreme Court and HCs.

Phase 3 also proposes transcription of court proceedings from audio/video format to typed digital record that can be made available to litigants and lawyers after the end of hearings. “Live streaming or sharing recorded court proceedings can enable courts to become more open,” the draft proposal said.

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