Rational use of paper a Constitutional obligation: Law students move PIL in Allahabad HC urging for use of double-printed A4 paper in courts
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Rational use of paper a Constitutional obligation: Law students move PIL in Allahabad HC urging for use of double-printed A4 paper in courts

"The rational usage and saving of paper from unnecessary and excess use and wastage is a constitutional obligation cast on both the State and the citizen", states the plea.

Meera Emmanuel

Five law students have moved a PIL in the Allahabad High Court calling for the adoption of A4 size paper, with printing on both sides, for use by all courts in the State on grounds of preserving the environment and saving costs, among other grounds (Saumitra Anand and 4 ors v. Registrar General, High Court of Judicature at Allahabad and ors) .

The plea points out that presently, the High Court and subordinate courts in Uttar Pradesh use the thicker (and longer) legal-size paper for Court documents, pleadings etc., which are only printing on one side.

Given that lakhs of cases are routinely filed before the courts, the petitioners raise concern that enormous amounts of paper are unnecessarily consumed, which directly equates to the cutting down of trees, depletion of forests and the water resources, land, air and water pollution and severe environmental degradation.

The petition has been filed by Saumitra Anand, Sagar, Shubham Mishra, Anup Shukla and Vidit Pratap Jaiswal through Advocates Shashwat Anand and Ankur Azad. The petition was drawn by Advocate Faiz Ahmad.

While urging the Court to direct a transition to the uniform use of A4 sized paper printed on both sides instead, the petitioners raise the following grounds.

Use of Legal Size paper, printing on one side is outdated

The petitioners point out that presently, A4 Size Paper is the most commonly used paper worldwide. The legal size paper has been junked out of usage in most parts of the world, including in the courts of the USA and the UK.

Further, one-sided printing on water-marked/ foolscap/ legal size paper is a relic of the colonial era. It was in vogue during the era of type-writers, which allowed printing only on one side.

The watermarked/ foolscap/ legal-size paper was also used to preserve files for a longer period of time earlier. However, with the technological advancement, the paper quality of A4 size paper has increased. Further, the digitization of files and court records has also begun. As such, "there is no reason not to use A4 Size paper, printed on both sides, and the same is rather indispensable."

Cost saving involved in adopting double-printed A4 size paper

The petitioners highlight that the cost of a Legal Size bundle costs around Rs. 350, while, a bundle of A4 Paper costs around Rs. 280. The cost of printing or photocopying one page of a legal size paper is Rs. 2, whereas, for A4 Size, the cost of photocopying or printing one page is Rs. 1. In other words, the cost difference between the two paper sizes, i.e., Legal and A4, is more than double.

As such, it is argued that the use of legal size paper, printed only on one side "casts an unwarranted and unnecessary financial burden on the litigants and pinches their pockets, and is unjust and unfair, as it strikes a heavy blow upon the pockets of the poor litigants coming from weaker and underprivileged sections of the society."

Rational use of paper is indispensable for protection of the environment

While making submissions on the enormous consumption of natural resources that go into paper production, the pollution resulting from the wastage of paper and the resource constraints prevalent in India, the petition highlights that,

"... the rational usage and saving of paper from unnecessary and excess use and wastage is a constitutional obligation cast on both the State and the citizen."
Petitioners

The petitioners go on to submit that the use of A4 sized paper entails a lesser consumption of natural resources. As noted in the petition, "Using A4 Paper, with printing on both sides of the paper, would drastically reduce this environmental impact and would save around 6,035 trees and 50,29,03,500 (50 crore) litres of water."

As such, it has been contended that,

"The use of A4 Size Paper, with printing on both sides, instead of water-marked/foolscap/legal size paper with one side of printing, is indispensable for the protection of the environment and the ethos of the Constitution and in the good of both the public and the State..."

In view of these considerations, and to bring about uniformity in filings, the petitioners point out that various courts in India, including the Supreme Court and numerous High Courts such as those of Tripura, Calcutta, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have directed for the use of A4 Size Paper, with printing on both sides of the paper, for the purposes of all pleadings, petitions, affidavits or other documents to be filed in court.

On these grounds, the petitioners have now made the following prayers before the Allahabad High Court:

  • Direct that A4 size paper with printing on both sides of the paper be used instead of legal-size paper with one side printing, for all the pleadings, petitions, affidavits or other documents to be filed in all courts in the State.

  • The introduction of suitable amendments in the Allahabad High Court Rules, 1952, to give effect to the directions for the use of A4 Size Paper, with printing on both sides of the paper for court documents.

  • Streamline the procedure for E-Filing, so as to make it hassle-free, efficient and more effective. This is being urged in the environmental interest, to reduce the consumption of paper and promote paperless courts. It is added that this can be done on the lines of the E-Filing procedure of the Supreme Court.

Read the Petition:

Saumitra Anand and 4 ors v. Registrar General, High Court of Judicature at Allahabad and ors.pdf
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