It’s no wonder that almost everything is ‘Made in China’. And now China has proved to be the leading country to create a cyber court to exclusively deal with e-commerce and internet related issues. Don’t think for once that it is just another brick and mortar court following the age-old judicial. Like any other new product, China has inculcated its own innovative and novelty touch even to the justice system.
Introduction to Cyber Courts
Hangzhou, being the e-commerce capital of China, thanks to Alibaba, is the first to open the special cyber courts. What is a so special about this Cyber court, you ask? It’s the only court to deal exclusively with all cases related to e-commerce and internet disputes. The court will have the ability to handle all aspects of a case online from beginning to end.
Jurisdiction of Cyber Courts
The court shall have exclusive jurisdiction over the following matters:
a. Dispute arising from online shopping of goods and/or services.
b. Disputes of product liability of sellers arising from online sales.
c. Disputes arising out of Internet Service Provider (ISP) or Internet Content Provider (ICP) contracts
d. Disputes arising out of online financial loans, when the borrower defaults to pay or refuses to pay etc.
e. Online Copyright Infringement disputes (refers to disputes involving infringement of information network transmission rights)
As per Chinese civil procedural code, the cases can be filed only in the domicile of the defendant i.e. place of principal business or registered office of e-commerce companies. That means, even a foreign entity, having a registered place of business in China, would be under the jurisdiction of this court in case of a dispute.
From the look of it, it has practically covered a to z of online disputes, thereby protecting and enforcing the rights of customers. However, I am confused as to how product liability of seller any different from disputes arising from online sale of goods or services? Also, what about cyber-attacks and cyber-crimes committed against individuals, legal entities
and the Nation itself, what about such crimes? Will that be tracked through traditional courts system? If so, then what is the point of even having such modern fast track and convenient process of adjudication? For crimes, even if the filing of case and evidences are done online, a lot of time and cost will be saved, while the hearing can be done in person.
Procedure of the Court
The online platform will be the basis for all procedures of the court which will allow people to file cases and attend trials. To be able to use this platform, users must first verify their identity and then register for an account which can be done either physically at the Hangzhou court (which to a large extent defeats much of the purpose of having the online court system) or by identity verification through Alipay (Alibaba’s payment service – the cyber court is dominantly made by Alibaba).
Once the account is open in the court one can file a complaint, submit evidence, and request service of process through this platform. Once the case is filed, a pre-trial mediation is attempted through various electronic modes, failing which, the suit is formally heard by the court via live streaming by a verification process on the webpage. The hearing, documents, evidence will be accessible from all across the country and will be securely stored through encryption on a server.
Authenticity and verification of cases and evidences
The Supreme Court of China, in a recent landmark judgment, has legalized the use of blockchain system to resolve internet disputes. The Supreme Court has released Regulations on Issues of Case Hearing of Internet Court wherein it is stated that the authenticity of electronic data submitted by the parties will be verified through electronic signature, trusted time stamp, hash value check, blockchain and other evidence collection, fixed and tamperproof technical means or through electronic forensic evidence platform certification. In case of a challenge to the authenticity, the parties themselves or the court Suo Motu may get the data verified by an expert.
Inspiration India needs to draw from China
As on date, China has established three internet or cyber courts to deal with the aforestated disputes. An Internet arbitration platform of Nanjing Arbitration Commission in China was also set up which is used for storing electronic data, together with financial institutes and arbitration authorities through applying the blockchain technology, so as to achieve the realtime preservation, electronic delivery, trail and arbitrament.
As long as the network permits, with the implementation the cyber courts, India will be able to complete the whole process online, including indictment, accreditation, testification, court, referee, and execution, in a bid to save judicial resources and convenient the public in lawsuits. It also will likely make rulings on the internet and internet-related cases more consistent and thereby give more and better guidance to the potential and actual litigant and that litigating these types of cases online will save time and reduce costs. Most of all. It will offer regular people an efficient, low-cost solution to these new kinds of disputes that take place on the internet and further provide the same degree of judicial protection as consumption at brick-and-mortar stores to such online shopping.
India seriously needs to draw inspiration from China and implement cyber/internet courts to adjudicate matters quickly and cost-efficiently. As of now, only e-filing of cases is allowed, as per the norms set by the Supreme Court of India. However, online adjudication of cases is the need of the hour to clear out the pending cases and create an easily accessible Indian justice system from anywhere across the world. In fact, with the latest Data Privacy bill of 2018 enumerated by Justice Srikrishna Committee, such a system would only add to protection regime in India.
The author is an advocate with in-house experience as a corporate lawyer having keen interest in E-commerce, FinTech, Media and Entertainment industry.