The Justice Delivery System In India Information Technology Essay

The object of this presentation is to discuss ways in which computers can be used to increase the efficiency of the justice delivery system in India. To better understand how computers can help increase efficiency in the Indian Legal System, we must first know a little about the system itself and what its main shortcomings are. Then, we will have to see how computers come into the picture and how they are being used at present and what new projects are in the pipeline for the near future. It is only after this; that we can go on to explore new ideas and ways in which computers can be used to increase the efficiency of the justice delivery system in India.

In India, we have a Legal System that measures up rather well if assessed by the yardsticks of fairness and independence. Indeed, its activism and leading role in tacking social problems has received praise from throughout the world, as had its measures like Public Interest Litigations. Where it falls short, is in terms of speed and efficiency. Why is so, is a relatively complex and multifaceted topic and shall be discussed in little detail shortly.

In today’s world we have made many great advances in the Information and technology sector. Computers have become faster, and much more powerful than before. And more importantly, they have become more user-friendly and cheaper. Computers have become not only an important source of information and entertainment but they have also contributed greatly to have make life more easy and efficient for people. All the big institutions like companies and other financial institutions like banks and stock markets are totally dependent on computers. This has made them more efficient and robust.

In the light of this, I would like to say that it is time that we started using computers to help us make the judicial system in India more efficient and effective. There is an urgent need to implement this urgently as we already have a huge backlog of cases that is crippling the system and eroding the faith of the people in the system.

The Problem

The most fundamental problem facing the Indian Judiciary is the high backlog of cases. This backlog in turn translates into the delay in disposing of cases. And delay in dispossessing cases is a very serious concern as it erodes the faith of the people in the system and when nothing is done about it can also contribute in people losing all faith in the system and instead opting to go to parallel systems like the insurgent groups.

Recently, while disposing of a land dispute case pending for a staggering 50 years, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court observed that “inordinate delay in the disposal of cases” has eroded faith in the judiciary and left the people “simply disgusted”. [] 

It is no secret that a major cause for this delay is understaffing. India has fewer than 15 judges per million people, a figure that compares very poorly with countries such as Canada (about 75 per million) and the United States (104 per million). In 2002, the Supreme Court had directed the Centre that the judge-population ratio be raised to 50 per million in a phased manner. Sadly however for the judiciary, successive governments have not done enough to address this issue. There is also very little in terms of budgetary allowance that has been done to help the judiciary. In the Tenth Five Year Plan, the judiciary was allocated just 0.078 per cent of the total expenditure.

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There are of course a cluster of other reasons for the backlog of cases. These include inadequate physical infrastructure, the failure or inability to streamline procedures in the Civil and Criminal Procedure Codes, the delay in computerising courtrooms, and the inadequate effort that has gone into developing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as the Lok Adalats, arbitration and mediation. Then there is also the issue of the huge amount of unnecessary government litigation.

In its 230th Report on Reforms in the Judiciary – Some Suggestions; Law Commission of India, too noted this problem and commented that among other things, “The formation and functioning of the High Courts in India need drastic changes so that the people of the country may have fair and speedy justice and more faith in the system.” [] 

Now we know what the main problem of the Indian Judiciary is; and the main factors contributing to it. This problem can be solved only by measures like promoting the Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechanisms, ensuring that enough Judges are appointed and it is done on time and there is no vacancy. But, this doesn’t mean to say just because posts are vacant anyone should be appointed. The quality of justice is as important as speed of justices. Now India just lacks the speed but ill implemented reforms may distort the quality too, and that is to be avoided at all cost.

Use of Computers, Current Situation

Computerisation of courts was initiated during the latter part of 1980s in association with the National Informatics Centre (NIC). During the last two decades, the Supreme Court of India, the high courts, city courts, district courts, sub-district courts and fast track courts have seen ‘informatisation’ in their administrative and management process, and have ushered in ‘transparency’ to the ‘common public’ to a certain extent. [] 

Presently, computers are used in courts in various ways like for filing cases where, the required data for each and every case, such as details of the parties, nature of the case, and details of the advocates are recorded in computers in the filing counters. This data then becomes available for instant access and this also allows for the automatic generation of cause lists.

Another major use of computers can be is in the recording of the judgments and orders of the court. These documents are the stored in a centralized server and this allows for the availability of these documents for easy review, reference and reproduction.

Computers are also used for the purpose of research and for the furnishing of judgments and other related documents requested by the judges during the course of the proceeding of cases. This is one area where computers have been able to help greatly in providing quick results, thereby saving the precious time. There are many websites and software today that maintain a vast collection of case files of all the Supreme Court and the High Courts of India, for example SCC Online, maupatra, lexis nexus etc. This is an improvement over the earlier method of collection journals like AIR, as this provides for faster access to the relevant cases and better and more ways to search for them.

Computers are also used today to maintain High Court and Supreme Court websites where things like cause lists, court timings, contact information etc are available. Websites also maintain a record of the cases and provide a free database to get judgments from. This provides access to the judgments to the layman, as subscribing to professional case database sites like Indlaw, manupatra etc is not something everyone can afford of needs.

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Recently, the Supreme Court has also experimented with email notices to respondents to cut the delay in the traditional method of serving notices. The traditional method, registered post with acknowledgement due usually takes a long time and mostly results in adjournment of hearings because of non-service of the notices on the respondents. This is good news, especially considering that statistics indicates that at least, 50% of the cases get delayed on account of delay in the process of serving notices.” But this is not to say that the traditional method of serving notices would not be given up. [] 

Use of Computers, Suggestions

There are many projects in the pipeline which are to be implemented shortly that aim to make greater use of computers to make the judiciary more efficient. There is one project that aims to computerize all the material of the library. This in my opinion is a very important as it will make all the information more readily available and easier and faster to search.

Another plan currently due to be implemented intends to digitalize all the records of the court. This will make administrative functions smoother and more efficient. This will allow for better organization like allowing all cases having the same law points to be decided by the courts can be grouped and posted before one Bench for disposal with the help of Information Technology. This will help the courts to speed up disposal of cases.

Video conferencing technology is also due to be installed soon. This can help in reducing delays, especially in the subordinate courts where the Judicial Officer need to record evidence of the witness in presence of under-trial prisoners. On many occasions, criminal trials get adjourned for absence of the under trials in the court for want of security escorts from jail resulting in unnecessary and avoidable adjournments. Here the application of video conferencing facility, from the court to the prison where the under-trials are housed, will be able to take care of the problem. Video conferencing service will not only help in avoiding unnecessary adjournments of cases but also save lot of money on transportation.

Another effective measure can be the use of technology to collect information like the timeline of a case from the time is was instituted in a court of law to the final stages of appeal. Building up a judicial database like this will enable us to assess the performance of the courts, and the Chief Justices will be able to use it to assess the individual performance of judges. This will go a long way in identifying what the backlog is and what types of cases are clogging the system, etc. [] 

By maintaining a good and detailed case database we can also do things like track old cases, many of which have become meaningless, can be separated and listed for hearing and their disposal normally will not take much time. Same is true for many interlocutory applications filed even after the main cases are disposed of. Such cases can be traced with the help of technology and disposed of very quickly. [] 

A suggestion I would like to make that might be able to use computers in making the Judicial System more efficient is that all documents should be on computers and ultimately on some server and linked in such a way that it can be accesses from all government offices like courts, police stations and administrative offices and specific information centres. When I say all documents it mean documents of all government offices, all police files and basically any document produced by the government baring say like secret and very important documents like intelligence reports and things of that nature. Though it would be better to have access to all these documents through the internet I for one do not suggest it as there documents can be of very private in nature and may contain sensitive and important information and as we know the web is not a great place for such information. That’s why I suggest a more secure network to access them from.

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What will happen if we make all these documents available online is that we would not have to spend time running from one office to another to collect them. Also since they are all in the server they cannot get lost or misplaced, and we would be able to skip many of the inconveniences like have to pay a clerk to get one’s documents processed faster as there would be a log of all documents with their dates and time. This will also enable people to see the status of their documents if their documents are being processed by some department of another due to some reason.

In the end there is a lot of good if documents are made available on computers as it will be beneficial to everyone as it will result in increased visibility to the status of on-line forms submission, enhanced access to crucial, relevant government department information, reduced costs through improved automation of information collection and its retrieval and storage, easier sharing of information, improved multi-agency communication and collaboration and most importantly it will result in higher productivity across the board. [] 

Conclusion

After having gone through the whole presentation, we can safely conclude that computers can play a real and effective part in helping the Indian Judiciary more efficient. We have already discussed the various uses computers have been put into in the system today, and what projects are in the pipeline for the near future. I have also made some suggestions I believe can help.

However, even as we understand and discuss new and better ways in which computers can help us make the judicial system more efficient, the more important thing right now is to implement all the available projects like digitalization of different aspects of the present court throughout the entire system as many of the current schemes of computerization and digitalization are only implemented in the higher judiciary and some select lower courts.

On a concluding note I would to say that along with proper planning and funding from the government’s side, the keenness of Officers of the court is an essential pre-requisite to accomplish an attractive outcome with the use of Information Technology.

Another point I think I should mention before ending this presentation is an explanation why we have not discussed of any long term plans and ideas. This is because in today’s world technology is advancing in an exponential way and it is not possible to predict what the future might hold in store for us; and thus it is useless to plan long into the future. For example, 20 years ago no one would have believed you if you told them people could see and talk with each other even if they were physically thousands of miles apart. Today it is possible to do so with a person in space too.

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