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The Chairperson of the Supreme Court E-Committee, Justice DY Chandrachud on Friday interacted with the Chairpersons of the Computer Committees of High Courts, to review the measures taken for hearing urgent cases promptly during the lockdown in place due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Chairpersons shared with the participants the steps taken and the challenges faced in their states. Notably, the participants also agreed with the suggestion by Justice Chandrachud that the use of technology must be institutionalised even after the lockdown is lifted and normalcy returns. Other highlights of the meeting include the following.
Justice Chandrachud informed the participants about an e-filing module which is in an advanced stage of development in the Supreme Court. An e-filing module has been developed for trial courts. It was agreed that E-filing in such modes as may be practicable may be used during the period of lock down.
During the meeting, Justice Chandrachud also suggested that the High Courts may share the utilities which have been developed in their courts for being deployed wherever they are found to be useful.
Full use of facilitation centres wherever available, or creating facilitation centres with facilities for e-filing and video conferencing at the entrances of court complexes in porta cabins was suggested. Equipment required or manpower could for the time being be deployed from the existing strength since all courts in a complex are unlikely to be functioning during the lockdown.
Justice Chandrachud also highlighted that a software patch has been developed for automatic posting of dates of hearing of cases in CIS 3.2, with a facility of bulk adjournment of cases during the lockdown and for sending SMSs to litigants and lawyers about the next dates. This may be immediately deployed to obviate visits by litigants and lawyers to the courts during this period.
While ideally, judicial officers and advocates should work from their homes, it was left to the high courts to decide to what extent this was feasible.
The question of live streaming of proceedings held by video conferencing was also discussed. Based on an assessment of technical issues like availability of sufficient bandwidth and facilities of hosting the proceedings on dedicated servers, it was felt that the recordings should be hosted on court web-sites by the next day. This will ensure that people have access to court proceedings.
It was noticed that virtual courts were functioning only in a few states though software has been provided to all states by the NIC team at Pune. The urgent need to start virtual courts, not only for traffic challans but also for promptly dealing with summary violations was emphasized. Dr Justice Chandrachud suggested that that the High Courts may use the unutilised funds from Phase II of the E-courts project for meeting immediate needs while observing financial norms. He assured that demands for funds or software will be promptly processed by the E-committee and submitted to the Department of Justice.
Justice Chandrachud placed on record his appreciation of the efforts undertaken by officials of all courts under the guidance of the Chairpersons of the Computer committees of the High Courts. Chairpersons agreed that they would promptly start working on the lines decided.
The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks by the Justice RC Chavan, Vice-Chairperson of the E-committee.