Video-conferencing infrastructure in courts

Our courts are always busy and rather overburdened with the number of cases being attended to , the new ones reaching daily and the ones piled up are pending disposal for years. The normal work and in particular, disposing of cases in courts, can no more be afforded to be impacted further due to the constraints emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Conventional physical hearing of cases and clearance of backlog at the desired pace in courts cannot be subjected to be deferred for an indefinite period or till the threat of the virus is completely gone . Hence, to resolve the issue, the necessity of utilizing video- conferencing facility at Court rooms at increased levels has been felt by the e-Committee of the Supreme Court aimed at providing necessary assistance to High Courts of the states and the Union Territories. This all is being done under e- Courts Mission Mode Project. In this connection , 132 more court rooms in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh are to be provided video- conferencing infrastructure very shortly. In other words, transition to virtual hearing shall become the procedure in the courts so that normal work gets started as a routine.
It may be noted that in both the Union Territories, only 86 court rooms have the necessary equipment to facilitate video conferencing as against 218 functional court rooms. In other words, the facility being tantamount to a drop in the bucket means very partial transition to the virtual court hearings. Augmenting the facility of video-conferencing would definitely lead to handling more cases and thus make transition to virtual court hearing smoother. CVOID- 19 shall thus be “handled” very effectively in so far as its challenges to mobility and routine physical hearings and proceedings in courts were concerned. This all could be possible ably under e- Courts Mission Mode Project.
What exactly is this project aiming at is catering to almost all alternatives to the conventional physical system of court proceedings and covers right from providing training material for judicial officers and the staff to links to district court websites and to statistical reports used as judicial management information system. Time bound and efficient citizen centric service delivery, to enhance judicial productivity both qualitatively and quantitatively were aimed at by the Mission Mode. It also strives for ensuring that justice delivery system was cost effective, affordable and transparent. The said Mission Mode is already under implementation for Information and Communication Technology at District and Subordinate Courts and new Case Information Software has been developed and deployed at these courts. The objectives of e- Court Mission Mode are larger and wide in that it promises to develop install and implement, decision support system in courts. If it is said that embedded in the system is the promise to bring about some judicial reforms also gradually, it would not be any exaggeration. However, we at present, in the light of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, are concerned about the early raising of video- conferencing infrastructure at all the functional court rooms in both the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. We, therefore, hope that the new system would get fast acceptability and adaptability by the judicial fraternity and the staff so that disposal of cases go on smoothly.