Virtual Courts an effort of the Indian judiciary to tell our citizens that we realise that time has value: Justice DY Chandrachud

Virtual Courts an effort of the Indian judiciary to tell our citizens that we realise that time has value: Justice DY Chandrachud

The judge was speaking at the inaugural ceremony for certain e-projects by the Kerala High Court, including an e-module for bail applications, land acquisition appeals and Motor accident appeals.

Meera Emmanuel

The Supreme Court's E-Committee chairman, Justice DY Chandrachud observed on Monday that the significance of the virtual court system lay in the fact that it is aimed to be citizen-centric.

The judge was the keynote speaker in a virtual ceremony organised to inaugurate e-projects by the Kerala High Court for E-modules pertaining to bail applications, land acquisition appeals, motor accident appeal cases and obtaining certified copies electronically.

Monday also saw the launch of an e-filing system for subordinate courts with the Munsiff Magistrate Court at Kolenchery and the Munisff's court at Ernakulam as pilot locations.

Kerala High Court Judges attending the inaugural ceremony.
Kerala High Court Judges attending the inaugural ceremony.
"What is the importance of the virtual court? It is citizen-centric. It is an effort of the Indian judiciary to tell our citizens that we realise that time has value, that courts are not just places where citizens come just to be granted an adjournment."
Justice Chandrachud said.

He added that with such initiatives, the Court is assuring the citizens that, "We value your time, we value your productivity. And therefore, when you plead guilty if you want to, to a petty offence, you can pay your fine online, you are saved of the botheration of coming to the courts."

Secondly, the virtual court system leads to judicial productivity, Justice Chandrachud said, adding that with such a system in place, "The work of 20 judges in Delhi is now being handled by one judge."

Thirdly, it also promotes compliance of the rule of law. It ensures that metro cities do not become accident capitals of the world, Justice Chandrachud said.

Justice DY Chandrachud speaking during the virtual inauguration
Justice DY Chandrachud speaking during the virtual inauguration

The judge hailed the Kerala High for the initiatives launched on Monday noting that it would ensure the real-time scrutiny of bail applications, which have an intrinsic connection with human liberty. This was an important first step to be open, transparent and efficient, he added.

He went on to appreciate that by these initiatives, linkages are fostered with all the stakeholders concerned, which would also ensure greater accountability when it comes to the functioning of the prosecuting arm of the State Government.

As information is made available to the judges on their dashboard in real time, the judge assumes command and responsibility for the fairness of the criminal justice administration, Justice Chandrachud pointed out. Further, the digital signing of orders would ensure seamless, instantaneous communication of bail orders, he noted.

He went on to add a few suggestions of his own on how to use technology further for the benefit of lawyers and litigants. In this regard, Justice Chandrachud suggested,

  • The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to translate contents of FIRs where it is in another language.

  • The use of AI to translate all judgements of High Courts into regional languages. "Let us make the language of the courts available at the doorstep of the litigant by using information technology", Justice Chandrachud said.

  • Use of online mediation and negotiation services to help bring peace between warring parties across state and country lines.

  • Training of lawyers and judges is also very important, he added."There can be no tech-enabled judiciary without a tech-enabled Bar", he opined.

  • The need to spread the footprint of the virtual courts. Virtual courts are now being used for traffic or petty offences, Justice Chandrachud noted. He added that they can be expanded to cover summary trials of various kinds of offences.

As he concluded his address, Justice Chandrachud also urged the Kerala High Court to thing beyond E-filing and look into digitising cases, including pending cases.

"From digitisation, we propose to move towards a natural repository of judicial data and the interoperability of data at all levels across the nation. We must digits with very grave care. In the process of digitisation, we must maintain a basic machine learning equipment so that in the future, our data, which is digitised, becomes inter-operable", Justice Chandrachud said.

On a parting note, he added,

"My thought is that Kerala should become the first State to eradicate information and communications technology illiteracy amongst the Bench and the Bar...If we do that, we will foster the most important thing, which is a change in mindset. It is only when we change mindset we will be able to tap the full potential of the technology that we are deploying as part of all these projects today."

Kerala High Court E-projects inaugurated

"The ultimate aim is to serve the people in a better manner and in the best possible manner", Justice AM Mustaque said while rendering the introductory address.

Justice A Muhamed Mustaque
Justice A Muhamed Mustaque

Justice Mustaque is also the chairman of the Kerala High Court's Computer Committee.

Computer Commitee members, Justices Raja Vijayaraghavan V, PB Suresh Kumar and Shaji P Chaly detailed how the new initiatives work in a presentation played during the ceremony.

The working of the inter-operable bail module was explained thus:

  • The system enables all stakeholders to have a dashboard. The Public Prosecutor, the judge, the filing scrutiny officer, the personal secretary, the advocate will have a dashboard.

  • When the case is registered, intimation is given to police and Government Pleader.

  • The GP can get the records of the case electronically transmitted from the police to his dashboard.

  • When the documents are received, the same is uploaded to the judge’s dashboard by the GP. This happens on the next day itself.

  • The judge can take the matter up on the next day itself and pass appropriate orders.

  • The order passed is digitally signed, which is then uploaded to the server. It will have a QR code.

  • The order is forwarded to the party, and he will also be intimated.

  • The order will be sent to the court concerned, the jail as well as the police officer.

As far as motor accident claims appeals are concerned, it was noted that the focus was to develop a module in such a fashion so as to clear pending cases at a faster pace. Inter alia, the system will ensure that defects in a plea are informed to lawyers in an automated manner to save the court's time.

To ensure the faster disposal of land acquisition appeal cases, a system has been developmed to identify connected cases, club the same and hear it. The Court fee will be automatically calculated once details entered into earmarked areas at the time of filing.

It was also informed that the Court has started an e-seva kendra to extend support where technical difficulties arise in filing land acquisitions appeals.

"The introduction of the modules will revolutionise the concept of filing, consideration and disposal of bail applications, copy applications and the appeals above said."
Kerala High Court's Chief Justice S Manikumar said.
Chief Justice S Manikumar
Chief Justice S Manikumar

Director General of Police Loknath Behra and State Transport Minister, MR Ajith Kumar also spoke at the event, expressing their support and pride at being part of the initiative.

The vote of thanks was rendered by Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar who expressed hope that the initiatives launched on Monday would only be the beginning for more initiatives to come in the future.

Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar
Justice AK Jayasankaran Nambiar

Watch the full inaugural event:

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