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We are not too tied down by tradition, say Delhi High Court judges on eve of Golden Jubilee

Nalini Sharma

The Delhi High Court’s Badar Durrez Ahmed, Pradeep Nandrajog, Hima Kohli and Siddharth Mridul JJ held an interaction with journalists, days before the celebration of the High Court’s golden jubilee on October 31.

Speaking about the unique nature of the Delhi High Court BD Ahmed J said that the High Court’s relative youth worked in the court’s advantage.

“One of the attributes of being this young is that we are not too tied down by tradition and we are forward-thinking and adapting to new technologies.”

He also spoke about the use of technology within the existing system, as well as proposed changes in the future.

“We are going towards a completely paperless environment. We are the only court where electronic filing can happen. Around 45, 000 cases have been e-filed. And all of this is done by software developed in-house!”

And given the renewed push towards arbitration, be it via the MCIA or the Niti Aayog’s recent conference, BD Ahmed also spoke about alternate dispute resolution in the country’s capital.

“One of the objectives we have for the future is that arbitration of all kinds should be done in India, including international arbitration. We are losing our arbitration cases to places like Singapore and Malaysia because we don’t have the kind of infrastructure or excellent arbitrators, but that is an objective that can be met with our endeavors.”

He was followed by another senior judge, Pradeep Nandrajog J. who spoke about legal aid and “sarkari” lawyers.  He said that the success rate of the legal aid lawyers is much higher in percentage as compared to the private lawyers.

“The initial hesitation with people is that the legal aid lawyers are vakeels  [lawyers] at state expense and anything provided by the State is generally perceived to be sub-standard!”

The judges also spoke about the pendency of cases in the Delhi High Court, with Ahmed J. arguing that not every pending case should be counted as part of the “arrears”.

“When you say that the Delhi High Court has got 62,000 cases pending, it doesn’t mean that all of them are arrears. Every case has a life! We can’t regard all of them as arrears. Suppose we say that a writ petition should be decided within a year, only if it goes pending beyond that does it become an arrear. So the 62,000 cases that are there in our pendency are not all arrears. They are in process.”

Be that as it may, one of the reasons for this pendency is the fact that there are only thirty-four working judges in the court, as opposed to the sanctioned strength of sixty.

But even while working at half-steam, the court has one of the highest number of women judges in the country.

Speaking about this, Kohli J. stated,

“We have a great number of women lawyers, senior advocates and judges. We have a very very vibrant path! A large number of women have risen from the Bar and have joined the Bench. Presently, one-third of the Bar and one-third of the bench are all women.”

Justice Mridul then spoke about the cosmopolitan nature of the High Court.

“We have judges from almost every state in the country. And we continue to assimilate all those who come to Delhi irrespective of the state, gender or economic status they belong to. Today I’m proud to say that when it comes to socio-economic justice and gender justice, this Court is at the fore front.”

The meeting was concluded with a candid question and answer session during which several issues regarding the court’s future were discussed. Justice Kohli spoke about the advancement in information technology and the ease of justice caused due to it.

“People can be placed in any part of the world and through a click they can get in touch with each other through video conferencing. Evidence is recorded in all parts of the world when parties are sitting in far flung places. This also works when people are incarcerated and have trouble travelling. 

Following the same line of thought, an optimistic Justice Ahmed added,

“Recording evidence and video conferencing is one part of things. We need to think of a court system based on tele-presence. Meaning, the judge is somewhere, the lawyer is somewhere and the parties are somewhere else and all of them have a tele-presence at a particular place.

“I like technology and I hope maybe in the future we may even have presence through holograms and 3D-imaging! At the end of the day it’s all about putting across your point. The judge is there, documents can be exchanged online.

If there is a court that can be expected to make this happen, it is the Delhi High Court!”

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