Should Supreme Court proceedings be live-streamed?
This article discusses the use of technology in legal system of India
Indian Judicial System
As Kautilya said in the Arthashastra , and during that time, when judges delivered a judgment, they did so in an open court. From then until now, the visual setting of the justice delivery mechanism hasn’t changed much. While the Indian legal system is built on the concept of open courts, which means that the proceedings are open to all members of the public, the reality is different.
The open court principle requires that court proceedings presumptively be open and accessible to the public and to the media.
On any given day, only a handful of people can be physically present and are allowed in the courtroom.
The Indian Judiciary can leverage technology as follows
- Reducing Arrears of cases: Clubbing of cases touching upon similar points of law can reduce the multiplicity of proceedings. Cases that have become infructuous and interlocutory applications that continue to be listed despite the main case being disposed of can be unlisted using technology and others solved on a priority basis.
- Quick delivery of judicial judgments: As part of digital resource management, the judgments of courts can be instantly posted on their website instead of the currently sluggish practice of giving hard copies.
- Superintendence of lower courts: The High Courts exercise general superintendence over lower courts in its jurisdiction. A judicial database comprising real-time data of court-cases could be set-up. The database could be accessed at the Data Centers established in this behalf at the HC and SC apprising the higher courts of the general functioning of the lower courts.
- Improving user connectivity: A National Judicial Data Grid could be established to hold critical information concerning pendencies, filings, stages and disposals of cases. Access to the grid could be restricted to authorized personnel of the courts. The grid could help in building consensus among courts (in respect of additional court requirements, performance assessments, cost orders, personnel, infrastructure, etc.) and ensure development of policies regarding delays. Semi-automated reports could also be published periodically completely doing away with the practice of publishing voluminous and expensive monthly/quarterly/annual statements.
- Improving evidence collection: Currently, parties are required to physically appear to file evidence and record statements. E-filing can save time. Evidence can be recorded using video-conferences.
- Upgrading court-infrastructure: The current architecture of Indian courts is outdated. The ICT infrastructure among other things would necessarily include latest computers, servers, printers, scanners, hubs, switches, routers along with appropriate cabling. The administrative staff could use computers to store information thereby eliminating bulky files. Computerization of the Registry of SC is also believed to reduce arrears.
- Establishing automated decision-making systems: The e-Court Mission Mode Project (MMP) under the National e-Governance Plan has been implemented with the aim of establishing automated decision-making and decision-support systems in 700 courts across Delhi, Bombay, Kolkata and Chennai; 900 courts across 29 State/ Union Territory capitals; and 13,000 district and subordinate courts across the Nation. It seeks to make the judiciary accessible, responsive, affordable and efficient. It also brings about greater connectivity.
- Ensuring greater dissemination of law: A comprehensive portal is on the cards. The web portal would be housing general information, including details and structure of courts, their history, functions and role. The portal would contain digital versions of legal documents along with speeches of various judges. It is planned to be akin to a legal encyclopedia.
- Phasing out paper: The Indian courts are seen to be littered with countless files and endless stacks of paper. E-litigation, as has been prevalent in Singapore, has been seen to drastically cut down on paper by introducing technology in the court rooms. It includes: an electronic filing service (allows court documents to be filed), an electronic extract service, (allows lawyers to obtain extracts of court documents), a facility to electronically serve processes on parties and an electronic information service.
live-streaming is neither called for in all types of matters nor in all courts. The emphasis is to make those matters that are of great public importance available for all to see. Therefore, matters which have a privacy dimension, such as family matters or criminal matters, or matters with legal procedural intricacies, such as most trial court matters, are out of its scope.
Source: The hindu