Home / India / Imperative to recognise existence of digital divide and take steps to bridge this gap: Justice D Y Chandrachud

Imperative to recognise existence of digital divide and take steps to bridge this gap: Justice D Y Chandrachud

'Courts will not only assist in crisis proofing justice delivery system but will also ensure that it is one which is open'
DY Chandrachud
DY Chandrachud
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PTI   |   New Delhi   |   Published 17.09.22, 06:43 PM

It is imperative to recognise the existence of the digital divide in the country and take steps to bridge this gap, Justice D Y Chandrachud said on Saturday.

Speaking at the inauguration of paperless courts in 30 districts in Odisha, he said the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic required us to make radical changes to the justice delivery system, by conducting remote hearings and transitioning to e-filing.


He said in doing so, the pandemic laid bare the limitations of the system and presented us with an opportunity to strengthen the justice delivery system.

Justice Chandrachud said while courts across the nation quickly and efficiently adapted to what we have come to term as the "new normal", it is important to remember that reactive policymaking rarely results in the development of sustainable and bankable solutions.

He said courts at all levels must build digital capabilities that are scalable, stable and designed for use by laypersons and lawyers.

The digitization of courts will not only assist in crisis proofing our justice delivery system but will also ensure that it is one which is open, transparent, accessible, and cost-effective, Justice Chandrachud said.

"It is imperative to recognize the existence of the digital divide and take steps to bridge this gap. We must and will ensure that the digitization of the court process does not disadvantage the common citizens in any way," he said.

The top court judge said technology is not just for the elite; it is for all those for whom the delivery of justice is intended.

"Paperless courts will also save precious time for lawyers, who may soon find themselves burning less midnight oil stitching together paper-books and preparing volumes upon volumes of annexures," he said, adding that paperless courts are environmentally sustainable because they will (as their name suggests) reduce the consumption of paper.

Justice Chandrachud said it is estimated that the Indian legal system is responsible for the use of millions, if not billions, of sheets of paper in any given year.

"The inauguration of paperless courts in Odisha will certainly go a long way in ensuring that this number is reduced. All the advantages that I have listed are doubly beneficial in the context of the district courts because it is there that a lion's share of the country's litigation takes place.

"In a lighter vein, the only disadvantage of paperless courts is that young lawyers will be deprived of the daily workout or exercise that comes with carrying voluminous paper books. We may witness a rise in the number of gym subscriptions in Odisha after the inauguration of paperless courts," he said.

Justice Chandrachud said the term 'paperless courts' can sound like an oxymoron to those who are familiar with the legal system because they are aware that litigation is often accompanied by voluminous case files.

"But we must make every effort to remember that our courts are not incompatible with the use of technology. On the contrary, they are ripe with potential for the many uses that technology offers.

"The current initiative is certainly tapping into that potential. A paperless court, as the name suggests, is a court which functions without physical paper books, where judges rely on digitised court records during court proceedings. Advocates are not required to file physical copies of paper books and the state may be served with an e-copy of the paper," he said.

He said the paperless courts initiative is also a step towards ensuring that our legal system is more accessible for judges and lawyers with disabilities.

"Apart from e-sewa kendras, the e-committee of the Supreme Court of India has entered into an MoU as a result of which all the e-services which we provide free of charge will be available in every gram panchayat throughout the territory of India. It would not be possible to implement the initiatives of the e-committee of the Supreme Court of India or of the high courts without the cooperation and enthusiasm of both judges and advocates.

"It is true that many of us may be unfamiliar with the use of technology and therefore uncomfortable with using it in court proceedings. As a former member of that group, I am happy to report that familiarizing oneself with technology is not as difficult as it may initially seem," he said.

Justice Chandrachud said after the COVID-19 pandemic, his chamber functions almost entirely without paper.

"I encourage the legal fraternity to participate in training programs which are being conducted throughout the country to instruct lawyers on the use of technology. One such training program is being conducted for lawyers appearing before the 'green bench' which I am presiding over. Today, a 'green bench' does not mean a bench hearing environmental cases but a bench which aims to conduct proceedings with zero physical filings, as will hopefully, be the case in paperless courts.

"The National Judicial Data Grid which is being put forth by the e-committee in conjunction with the National Informatics Centre has a source and availability of 75 lakh decided cases and judgments of the High Courts. Now, these 75 lakh judgments which we have made available on the National Judicial Data Grid are equipped with a free text search portal and engine, as a result of which every lawyer across India will be able to source these judgments without payment to a private software provider," he said.

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