Lokur J talks about digitization efforts at launch of Madras HC centre

Lokur J talks about digitization efforts at launch of Madras HC centre

Meera Emmanuel

The Digitization Centre of the Madras High Court was formally inaugurated today by Justice Madan B Lokur, Chairman of the Supreme Court E-Committee.

Also present were Chief Justice of the Madras High Court Indira Banerjee, Chairman of the Madras High Court Digitization Committee Justice Rajiv Shakdher, and other judges of the High Court.

Speaking to Bar & Bench, the Registrar of IT, Madras High Court, remarked that the centre will be the first of its kind in South India. The High Courts of Delhi and Punjab & Haryana have already launched similar initiatives, whereas the Allahabad High Court will soon do so.

The initiative for the project was undertaken by former Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and is currently being headed by Justice Shakdher.

About Rs 9.8 crore has been allocated for the project by the government. The aim is to digitize all old legacy records within a year and then proceed to the digitization of current records.

Justice Shakdher, who rendered the welcome address at the ceremony, expressed his happiness on the occasion. Acknowledging the Justice Lokur as a crusader whose role was crucial in the success of the digitization initiative, he remarked that the learned judge was known for his perseverance once a task is taken up. He spoke of the need to keep pace with changing technology.

Justice Lokur commended the Madras High Court, and in particular acknowledged the efforts of Justice Shakdher, for taking a very important step in the larger scheme of things.

It’s a huge thing”, he remarked, “in terms of money, in terms of storage of space.

Justice Lokur at the launch of the Madras HC Digitization Centre
Justice Lokur at the launch of the Madras HC Digitization Centre

He also spoke extensively on the remarkable progress made in terms of digitization of courts across the country in recent times. All district courts, save a few that are in remote locations, have been computerized. In the face of connectivity issues, mobile technology is also being employed to increase access to information.

While a mobile application is already available, he informed the audience that a more refined version of the application should be out soon. E-mail services have also been launched, which are currently being availed by all High Courts, except Karnataka, which is expected to start availing the facility in the coming week.

Initiatives are also underway to popularize the use of the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG). Apart from posters and training videos, a book on how to use the NJDG is also being released. Efforts to revise the Case Information System (CIS) are also being taken.

Notably, the revised version of the CIS may also address the difficulties arising out of different nomenclature being used for case types in different courts. It has been proposed that the different nomenclature be combined so that the computer system recognizes the case type, regardless of the varying nomenclature.

The aim is to enable greater access to information, including statistical data, which in turn may aid planning, case management and similar goals. Justice Lokur remarked that if all goes according to plan, such an integration system would become a game-changer.

With regard to High Courts, he spoke of plans to expand the live courts project. Currently, there are four courts in the country which are completely live with all pertinent information easily accessible online. As part of the pilot project, the four chosen courts were relatively smaller.

In view of the success of the concept in these courts, there are plans to rope in more courts soon. Apart from this, the e-filing system is also being tested, with an NIC audit scheduled next week to test its security. He also expressed hope that by the end of the year, all high courts would be part of the NJDG system.

Judge Lokur acknowledged that some initiatives may require that modifications be made in the rules. Nevertheless, he expressed that he was quite optimistic about the initiative taken up by the Madras High Court. He requested that all cooperate and assist to make it a successful venture.

It will take time, but it will help to have some systems in place which will help to dispose of cases.”

Chief Justice Indira Banerjee delivered the presidential address. She specially acknowledged the efforts of Justice Lokur in the computerization of courts all over the country. She remarked that the importance of digitization hardly needs emphasis, given the size and age of the Madras High Court. The difficulties faced in manually handling physical records, whether tasked with research or presenting a case in court were emphasized.

As a result, may judgments which form valuable precedents may go unreported or unnoticed. With digitization however, the Chief Justice noted, one can not only trace the judgments but also easy examine the factual background giving rise to the case. She remarked,

The establishment of a Digitization Centre was long overdue and finally it is here.”

She also appreciated other recent initiatives undertaken by the Madras High Court, including measures to make the buildings more differently-abled friendly.

While concluding her speech, she also said that the Court is taking steps to dispose of cases over five years old by March 31, 2018.

Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana rendered the vote of thanks before the ceremony came to a close.

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