e-Courts- Phase III

The digital wave has taken the world by storm; no field hasn’t changed itself under the influence of Information Technology. With banks adopting it in the mid-1990s and most banking applications now being online and app-based, India achieved the world’s highest e-transaction volume. The Indian Judicial System also saw the benefits, and Phase I of the e-Courts was implemented in 2007 after being conceptualized in 2005 based on the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology. Phase 1 was most crucial, as for the transition, lots of preparations were done, hardware was purchased and installed, and similarly, the Case Information Software was successfully implemented. District system administrators were trained by master trainers, who in turn, trained other staff members. All data entry for all pending cases was done, and an onerous task was achieved; all credit goes to Apex Court, which guided the dedicated court staff to make it happen. The CJI approved Phase-II in 2014, and the GoI approved it in 2015. Additional hardware was installed, and uncovered courts from Phase-1 as well as new courts were taken. Cloud Computing Architecture was adopted. The whole process was too cumbersome given the number of factors involved, but this was also achieved. Another important aspect implemented in Phase II was connecting jails and courts by video conferencing to go beyond routine remands and the physical presence of undertrials in prisons. Capacity building of the Judicial Officers was achieved, which helped a lot, specifically during the pandemic COVID-19 lockdown. The Supreme Court heard nearly three and a half lakh cases. And now Phase-III has been sanctioned, with a whopping seven thousand crores of budget marked for it. Right now, the objectives achieved under Phase-II are tremendous. The National Judicial Data Grid, Virtual Courts, Video Conferencing, Live Streaming of Court Proceedings, e-Filing, e-payments, e-Court Services, Digitization, and Secure-Scalable-Sugamya Website as a service are all established and working. The filing of cases and fee payment can be done online, and no more volumes of judgments are to be kept in chamber racks, it’s all digitized and available now at the click of the mouse. The Supreme Court was established in 1950. SC has achieved remarkable heights in the last 73 years, with an unblemished record of historic judgments for the betterment of the country and society. IT-enabled services have enabled the Apex Court and the Government of India to bring justice to every citizen’s door through improved judicial institutions and efficiency.
The other side is a bit serious matter, with around five crore cases pending, seventy-one thousand in the Supreme Court itself, and over four crores in subordinate courts and at the present disposal rate, it will take three and a half centuries to dispose of the pendency. The shortage of judges and court staff plays an important role in this, which is further exacerbated by the delaying tactics adopted by lawyers on behalf of clients. Apex Court has taken the matter seriously, and sincere efforts are being made to solve all pending issues. Certain things are even beyond the courts’ control. The Supreme Court is being taken care of by the GoI, but all other courts’ finances have to be handled by state governments. In practice, India spends only 08% of its GDP, compared to more than 2% in the United States and many other countries. The USA has around 250 judges per million of the population, and we have around 21, a staggering gap. Trying to save time, Courts have gone stricter on irrelevant PILs, imposing huge penalties on litigants. Given the present situation, this Phase-III is a lake of water in a desert and will resolve much of the date-after-date issues due to frivolous reasons. Apex Court is serious; GoI is also devising plans, and if all goes well, both can moot out some out-of-the-box solutions; Information Technology will transform the judicial system as well.