Express India July 4 2008 CLM Reddy Head, Courts Informatics Division, National Informatics Centre, gave a comprehensive overview of the state of affairs vis-à-vis the ongoing computerization of the Indian judicial system. By Pujya Trivedi
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam Azad kicked off the process of establishing a judicial e-governance grid that would cover the entire judicial system in India from the district courts to the Apex ones back in July 2007. Two decades back, NIC had initiated the computerization of Indian Judicial activities in 1990 starting with the Supreme Court of India. During 1992-1995 NIC took up the computerization of all High Courts on the lines of the Supreme Court computerization program. During 1997-1999 NIC implemented IT systems at 430 District Courts with the aim of creating awareness. During 2002-2005, it implemented systems at Metro and Capital city courts. From 2007 onwards, NIC has been implementing Phase - I of the District and Subordinate courts project at a cost of Rs 442 crore. This project is to be completed within two years.
The e-court effort by the Supreme Court will be completed in three phase as MMP under NeGP plan to link 15,000 courts in the country, informed CLM Reddy Head, Courts Informatics Division, National Informatics Centre, during his speech at Technology Sabha, Kovalam. Public Interface applications (PIAs) Reddy gave a complete overview of the current state of affairs of e-Judiciary in India. Under the e-Courts program, a list of eight services is to be provided including the online availability of judgments cause list, e-Filing of cases, notices through emails, etc. CLM Reddy said, “A need was felt to enable the Indian Judiciary through ICT. For this purpose, Public Interface Applications (PIA) were developed to help in the judicial administration of courts to streamline their day-to-day processes.” These PIAs are being used by judges to access legal and judicial databases as well as by litigants for whom information transparency is vital. Some of the PIAs accessible on the Internet are: Cause lists Cause lists are the schedules of cases that will be heard by the courts on the following day.
The Cause lists (CL) of the Supreme Court and all 21 High Courts are available on NIC’s Web Servers. Reddy said, “This is a near time critical application in all the Courts because until the list is ready and published, tomorrow’s court can not function.” This application helps advocates and litigants view the cause lists as soon as they are out in the registry. It eliminates the need to wait for a hardcopy to be delivered late in the evening. Advocates can now easily locate and generate their own CLs.
Daily orders Orders delivered by the court are made available to litigants on the Internet on the same day. This application receives about 15,000 hits every day. Case status Through this application the latest status of a case that is either pending or has been disposed off by the Supreme Court or a High Court is accessible. Judgments Information System This consists of the judgments of the Supreme Court and several High Courts. It contains close to 60,000 reported judgments of the Apex Court that can be accessed by litigants and lawyers. Reddy added, “For those who do not have access to the Internet, we have introduced an Interactive Voice Response System to access Supreme Court cases. This system can be accessed by dialing 24357276.” Digitally signed certified copies The Court also provides digitally signed copies, which do not need to be crosschecked with the original file and can be immediately served to a litigant. As there will be no delay in issuing a certified copy, the dealing clerk has to provide the copy on the spot. The litigant can even download an electronically certified copy from the Net without having to contact the court. India code It contains all the Acts of Parliament from 1834 onwards.
Each Act contains a Short Title, Enactment, Sections and Schedule, Amendments, etc. which can be retrieved online. Judges and librarians can maintain a reliable and updated copy of the India code. e-Filing This system envisages the electronic filing of cases by advocates from their offices. The advocate gets a receipt that has been digitally signed by the court authority. The person filing cases electronically is entitled to receive court proceedings electronically. Earlier computerization schemes The Indian judicial system encompasses nearly 15,000 courts situated in approximately 2,500 court complexes. In 1997, 430 district courts were computerized with an investment of Rs 15 crore. Under this scheme, one PC was provided to every district judge. During 2001-02, 700 metro civil courts were computerized and two or three PCs installed in each court with an outlay of Rs 17.8 crores. In 2003-04, 781 courts in 29 capitals were enabled and two or three PCs deployed in each court with an investment of Rs 24.8 crore. The e-Court monitoring Committee was constituted to oversee the implementation process in December 2004. NIC implements projects under the overall guidance of this e-Committee. The e-Court project The e-Court project was approved by CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) in 2007.
The total cost of this project has been estimated to be Rs 442 Crore and is expected to be completed by end-2008. This project will cover the remaining lower courts as well as take care of upgrading the ICT infrastructure. The implementing agencies for this project are NIC with the consultation and guidance of the e-committee. The e-Courts project will ensure that the status of pending cases from every court will be available online—in terms of both the cause list and the case details. It will also help courts issue digitally certified copies instantaneously. Facilitation counters will be set up in every court building for filing of cases and the issuance of certified copies and case information. This will help citizens report cases and obtain information without hassle. In phase -II of this project, victims and witnesses will be produced through video conferencing. Notices will be served and summons of higher court will be sent electronically. Digitally signed court orders and judgments will be available on the Net.
This project will also help in creating a database of pending cases and the electronic calculation of fees to eradicate corruption. It will electronically assign cases to judges. Similar cases will be grouped together, which will help in closing similar cases at a go. The system will also store digital transcripts of evidence, to make them tamperproof. Moreover, this system will help in the monitoring of process service levels. 12,840 laptops had been supplied to judges, over 9,000 of who were provided with Internet connectivity by BSNL and the rest were in the progress of being brought online. 13,000 laser printers were also being given to the judges.
In the court complexes, two to six servers per court and one laptop along with a scanner and printer were provided with a LAN. Personalized training and handholding for two years is being given to judges and their staff. Several awareness programs and workshops are being carried out by retired judges to deal with change management. Reddy said, “The e-judiciary initiative in the overall system will help in regular monitoring of cases, bring transparency to the system, enabling the quicker disposal of cases and help in transforming court services into a more focused system that will meet the needs of the citizen.