Ravi Shankar Prasad
Ravi Shankar Prasad
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Not in favour of doing away with physical hearings; physical and digital have to go together: Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Aditi Singh

While stating that he was not in favour of completely doing away with physical court hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic, Senior Advocate and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that "physical and digital hearings have to go together".

"It is essential to understand that digital and physical have to go together. Digital must supplement the physical and physical must compliment the digital. Yes, there are issues of security and privacy of data. We will take care of that...We will come with a robust data privacy law."
Senior Advocate and Union IT & Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Prasad was speaking on the theme Legal and Digital challenges for India Post COVID, at the fourth and final Prof NR Madhava Menon Memorial Lecture Series organized by Akhil Bhartiya Adhivakta Parishad.

Advocate Bansuri Swaraj moderated the lecture.

Advocate Bansuri Swaraj,Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad amd Justice (Retd) G Raghuram
Advocate Bansuri Swaraj,Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad amd Justice (Retd) G Raghuram

Justice (retd) G Raghuram, Director of the National Judicial Academy, Bhopal also shared his views on the theme during the session.

Remarking that there was no certainty on when the pandemic would subside, Prasad urged lawyers to start taking the benefits of digital advances in the field for the purposes of e-filing as well as "e-arguing".

"My appeal to all lawyer friends is to also start preparing. I understand the difficulty you all are undergoing. My sympathy is with you..but for your safety, this lockdown was necessary."
Ravi Shankar Prasad

Prasad added that although he agreed with the concerns raised by the Bar Council of India with respect to the inaccessibility of the virtual court system, it was also important to realise that physical hearings and digital hearings have to go hand in hand.

"Post-COVID world is going to be a different world. I am quite sure that India's moment has arrived. My leader, the Prime Minister, is an optimistic person...We believe in the innate ability of Indians and the divine entity of India to deliver...I have not the slighest doubt that we shall overcome.. Maybe post-COVID, there will be a new approach to life."
Ravi Shankar Prasad

The Law Minister further said that lawyers needed to embrace advances in technology such as the advent of Artificial Intelligence.

"But can Artificial Intelligence cross-examine? No", he quickly added.

He went on to speak about the spread of fake news in the digital ecosystem.

"It is some people's job to only spread negativity. We acknowledge the right of criticism and right to ask questions. That is what democracy is about. But if some people seek to weaken the morale of the country, particularly at the instance of foriegn powers, to create discord, promote divisiveness...then we need to guard against them."
Ravi Shankar Prasad

While emphasizing on Prof Menon's belief that courts should not interfere in matters of faith, Prasad referred to the original copy of the Constitution of India to show the "pictures of heritage of India" that were illustrated by Nand Lal Bose.

Ravi Shankar Prasad showing the "pictures of heritage of India" in the original Consitution.
Ravi Shankar Prasad showing the "pictures of heritage of India" in the original Consitution.

"Just above the Fundamental Rights, what photograph is there? Lord Ram returning to Ayodhya..,And what is there above Directive Principles of State Policy? It shows Lord Krishna preaching Geeta...Lord Hanuman is there, Natraj is there. There is Rani of Jhansi. There is Guru Govind Singh, Shivaji, Mahatma Gandhi. There is Akbar but not Babar and Aurangzeb.

These days, there is a lot of debate that I believe in constitutional nationalism. No problem. I would tell those friends to please go through the original Constitution. What was the spirit of Indian Constitution? India bereft of its heritage...its culture cannot prosper. Post COVID, let us draw upon that finer springs of the great heritage of India with a commitment that we shall overcome..."

During the session, Justice (Retd) Raghuram spoke at length on how the legal profession would have to change post COVID-19 and how the usage of technology would bring transparency, accountability and access in the Judiciary.

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