A litigant cannot be denied the services of the court only on account of inequitable access to technology, emphasised Justice DY Chandrachud on Thursday evening during a virtual event hosted by the Madras High Court for launching five e-Court projects for Tamil Nadu. .The five projects inaugurated on Thursday are:National Service and Tracking of Electronic Process/NSTEP to aid in the process of issuing summons and carrying out allied court processes which is facilitated through a bi-lingual app;E-Seva Centre at Yercaud;E-Court services through E-Seva Kendras;Biometric Attendance for District Courts; and 3D E-Way Finder, a digital way-finder facility to facilitate advocates and the litigant public easily navigate the court halls, sections - both judicial and administration - information centres etc. at the Madras High Court. .Digitial divide should not obstruct access to Justice: Justice Chandrachud.Justice Chandrachud lauded the High Court for these initiatives, while emphasising, in particular, the significance of e-Seva Kendras in ensuring that e-Court services reach all sections of the citizenry. .Referring to a recently prepared Parlimaentary Committee report on the E-Courts project, he remarked, "One thing which the Parliamentary Committee has emphasised is the importance of the e-Seva Kendras, and not without justification. In fact, for very strong reasons because there is a big technological divide in India between people who have access to the internet, people who do not have access to the internet; people who have smartphones and those who do not."."We, as members of the judiciary, cannot tell a litigant or a citizen that you do not have access to the internet and therefore we cannot provide services to you. It is our obligation to do so. Therefore, the e-Committee of the Supreme Court has taken upon itself the obligation of ensuring that we have e-Seva Kendras in every court complex in India, in the over 3,200 court complexes in India."Justice DY Chandrachud.He went on to urge Chief Justice AP Sahi of the Madras High Court and the judges of the High Court's Computer Committee to ensure that e-Seva Kendras are eventually spread and fanned across the State of Tamil Nadu."This is the only way in which we can reach out to common citizens and provide the e court services which the judicial system today is in a position to provide", he said..During the course of his special address, Justice Chandrachud opined that the statistics available with the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) should be used to carry a 360-degree assessment of judicial officers. .This assessment would not only in terms of orders and disposal of cases but also to assess the extent to which the court is able to incorporate Information and Communication Technology (ICT) governance..Further, he opined that land records with the State Registry ought to be linked with Courts, so that Courts are in a posibition to examine the nature of encumbrances on land and whether it can be offered as security during the conduct of cases. .It was also observed that the NJDG now allows for the uploading of reasons for delays in disposing of cases. Justice Chandrachud remarked that the pandemic was the right time for uploading every case with reasons for delay, given that the Courts are not working at full strength now. He pointed out that if such reasons for delay are uploaded, it may be possible to coordinate with State agencies to tackle the reasons for such delay. .Another notable issue raised by Justice Chandrachud concerning the training of lawyers in using e-Court services, including through instruction in vernacular languages. He observed, .“We do believe, that the only way we can find acceptability of information and communications technology within the judicial system is if the lawyers are trained. All lawyers do not have the same access to education, to the English language content - therefore, the E-Committee has now prepared video tutorials in diverse Indian languages including Tamil to train young lawyers, and I daresay we can also train young law students who are going to join the Bar.”.“Lawyers should not have a feeling that this is something totally new, that they will never be able to understand the system. They must understand how simple it is, how easy it is… so we must provide this facility for lawyers.”Justice DY Chandrachud.He went on to comment that,“Virtual courts have truly taken our court system to the door steps of citizens. I’m particularly impressed, I must share with you, with the number of juniors who appear before us in the Supreme Court, through the virtual courts. They have a sense of confidence. They are not daunted by a real physical court where you have to argue in the presence of 100 or 200 lawyers. There are a number of young juniors who are doing remarkably well on the virtual courts…”.As he concluded his address, Justice Chandrachud also touched upon the how the country and the Supreme Court has fared amid the COVID-19 pandemic and through virtual courts. .In the last five months, he informed that 34.74 lakhs cases were registered in India in the District Judiciary and 15.32 lakhs cases disposed of..At the Supreme Court, during this period, the matters filed through e-filing and physical filing stood at 6,957 and 550 matters respectively. Close to 8,429 cases were disposed of including cases with judgment. .About 95,000 advocates attended virtual court proceedings before the Supreme Court, of which about 55,000 advocates actually appeared, Justice Chandrachud said. .Virtual hearings at the High Court have been a success: Chief Justice AP Sahi.This march of law and march of e-governance has now become synonymous, Chief Justice AP Sahi observed in his keynote address. In this regard, he particularly acknowledged the leadership of Justice Chandrachud, who is the Chairman of the Supreme Court's e-Committee. .Chief Justice Sahi went on to comment, ."Virtual hearing, at least in the High Court, is a grand success. We are not getting responses in physical hearing. But virtual hearing is being welcomed by those generations of lawyers who did not even know anything about computers and smartphones. And they have now been encouraging the system."."As a matter of fact, we are now overloaded with cases for virtual hearing. All my judges have been throughout cooperating in this and I find that some of them with heavy dockets are continuing till 6 o clock in the evening, dispatching their judicial business with perfect ease..."Chief Justice AP Sahi, Madras High Court.He also observed that,"The percentage of acceptance of e-governance is now galloping fast. It has, therefore, now come to be a system that is going to stay not because we are imposing it, but because of its acceptability by the public at large.".On a parting note, he expressed that all the e-Court projects being unveiled would be of immense help, adding that, "I believe we will be able to fulfil the dreams of every litigant in terms of Mahatma Gandhi said of wiping off the tears of the man standing last in the line.".Justice TS Sivagnanam on the e-Court Projects launched.The Chairman of the Madras High Court's Computer Committee, Justice TS Sivagnanam briefed the audience about the projects being launched. .For the NSTEP project, he informed that 2,906 smartphones were procured for Rs 3.48 crores, which was sanctioned by the Computer Committee as part of Phase II of its projects. This facility is being extended to all courts in the district, he informed. .For the biometric attendance system, the State Government has allotted Rs 80.35 lakhs for procurement of biometric machines. 407 machines have been procured and installed in courts throughout the State, Justice Sivagnanam said. .E-service centres were installed at the Madras High Court back on 15 May. They have been successfully been functioning since then, Justice Sivagnanam said, although the physical entry of lawyers and litigants was not permitted to the High Court until recently..On the suggestion of Justice M Sundar, Justice Sivagnanam said that the hill station of Yercaud at Salem district was chosen to install an E-Seva centre. To this end, a porta cabin was designed in Bangalore and placed at Yercaud for a cost of about Rs 2.53 lakhs. .Presently, there are12,649 e-Service Centres, with 13,088 counters functioning across the State to provide unified access to e-services of various Government departments, Justice Sivagnanam further informed. .Referring to the E-Way Finder project, Justice Sivagnanam observed, "Subject to correction, we would be the first High Court to implement the interactive E-way finder.".Justice Sivagnanam also took the opportunity to inform the audience of how the Courts in Tamil Nadu have dealt with cases amid its virtual functioning. .From March 26 to September 15, 1.83 lakh cases were instituted in district courts and 1.29 lakh cases disposed of (including miscellaneous matters and bail applications), the Judge said. .In order to support the virtual functioning of courts, 100 Microsoft Teams licences were procured for the High Court (54 for judges and 46 for the Registry), and 1,068 licences were procured for judicial officers. .These were free up to September, Justice Sivagnanam said. Now, a request has been made for the sanction of Rs 16.63 lakhs to purchase the licences so that the hearings can continue seamlessly. .The inaugural event concluded after the vote of thanks by Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana, who is also a member of the Computer Committee. .The other members. of the Committee are Justices M Sundar, Jagadish Chandira and C Saravanan.