COVID_19 AND METAMORPHOSIS OF COURTS INTO VIRTUAL COURTS

CORONA or COVID_19 pandemic has brought the world on it's knees. There has been chaos in the world by Corona catastrophe on human beings. The disease has changed the face of the communication of human beings with each other. It has changed the behavior, life style and attitude of human beings.  It also has changed the way the businesses run. Even the functioning of courts are not spared, the pandemic has got the Indian judiciary also stand still in the lock-down for some time. However, judiciary has to function and in this challenging situation the work of Judges, Lawyers and Employees of judiciary is commendable. However, in the changed scenario the functioning of the court cannot be normal. The change has arrived and judiciary is well accepted the same with daily efforts and experiments in various stages of the case proceedings.  The e-court concept was already adapted by the Indian judiciary long back, however the pandemic has pushed the concept for far more efficient planning and functioning of e-courts with E- Filing, Virtual appearance & hearing, Evidences, etc.

     MEASURES FOR EFFECTIVE VIRTUAL COURTS
 
Better Infrastructure: For virtual court proceedings judiciary requires adequate, efficient and effective infrastructure. Either we need to be self-reliant by experts consultation or simply we can outsource it to the worlds renowned organisations who are highly exceptional in the area as it requires huge data handling, security to the data , efficient preserving and yet easily accessible. Some of the organisations handling government projects efficiently, viz., Defence, Passport process, Finance etc., in many countries.  In terms of courts as of now virtual proceedings are very minimal and only some modules are introduced in some districts on trial bases. The E-Courts concept is a must in this era, it saves time, cost and human resource. The E- Court concept endorses the effective and speedy justice delivery system. Looking at the huge pendency of Indian Judiciary, the courts proceedings to be faster and effective if proper infrastructure is built. For effective virtual court proceedings we need strong and efficient infrastructure, which we will discuss further below. 
 
Data Management: The most important aspect of virtual courts or E-courts is the data management. The data could be huge in courts if E- Courts are properly implemented. With images, Text file like PDF, e-mails, voice messages, text messages, videos, etc. This data can be a huge burden on a normal server, the server needs to be customised and tailor made with the help of experts in the industry with sufficient consultation experience. Need optimum electronic storage, server, security and required electronic infrastructure.  Maintaining such data required experts in such domain, as the data is huge and critical. 
 
Electronic collaboration: The courts need to electronically collaborate with other related organisations like, Police Stations, Medical organisations, Government, Financial Institutions, etc., in terms of faster data exchange. The collaboration should be at all levels from data exchange to virtual interactions for the purpose of court proceedings.

Minimise physical presence in courts: As the financial organisations, Passport offices, Adhaar, Income Tax organisation are now operating with very minimal physical visit to the organisations. Most of all transactions happen virtually. However, optimum electronic infrastructure to be built in order to achieve the ideal virtual courts.

Role of BAR associations: BAR associations should be ready with infrastructure to cope with the changes in the court processes and management. The associations should also have the required infrastructure to educate, facilitate and manage the advocate fraternity. The BAR needs to make the lawyers ready to accept and cope with the modern methods of court management.
  • Education to advocates on e-courts, virtual hearing, etc.
  • Infrastructure arrangements for advocates in BAR association for adequate training
  • Educate to establish virtual office to appear for court proceedings from home.
  • Virtual offices for advocates who can appear in court proceedings through video conferences who cannot afford home offices.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR EFFECTIVE DIGITALISATION FOR
 VIRTUAL COURTS CONCEPT AT DISTRICT COURT LEVEL 
 
Virtual Filing:
In the virtual filing concept, it is better to adapt INCOME TAX departments’ method. Here all the documents uploaded in “PDF”, “MICROSOFT EXCEL”, “XML”, etc. Court’s needs “IMAGE” files also in many of the cases in excess to what mentioned above. To realise the ideal virtual filing filing concept, advocates to be equipped with all the skills required. The staff require the adequate infrastructure and can be built by the help of the experts in the digital industry. I worked for such organisations before joining judiciary where the Companies were involved in virtualisation of the mega industries with ERP and CRM software. 
 
Scrutiny:
Once the filing is done with all the documents digitally, the process after the judicial service centre it will be directed to the scrutiny officer. If the proper software is implemented to cater this service, the scrutiny officer can do the same virtually in the computer system and assign to the pending branch or allocation branch virtually and the same file will be transferred through system virtually to the allotment branch. Here there is no presence of advocate or papers required in the process. The same file after the process will go to the designated court hall without delay and the Judicial officer can have look at the file in the computer system virtually and proceed. Here another advantage is that, the case files are safe, proper track of the case proceedings can be recorded, human interference is minimised and errors are less.
Pending Branch:
In the pending branch, the usual scenario is the clerk is dictating the proceeding to the typist manually and partial information is fed in to the CIS system. With the efficient ERP/CRM implementation, the manual work and the physical file can be avoided to the great extent and the process will be faster. The same file would be available virtually to High Court as well as the Supreme Court at the same time with a single click. Here requests to send the physical files from lower court to High Court or Supreme Court can be avoided and lot of time can be saved.
Record Preserving:
As discussed above majority of the case files are stored virtually and minimal     physical records if needed to be stored, then the records can be managed with     modern technical methods like Materials Management or Production     Management techniques.
Accounts Branch:  
Efficient processing of the below heads, complete digitalisation is required with better software product.

1.    Fees/Stamp Duty/Penalty/Fine/ all kinds of fees collection
2.    Cheques issuing and Deposits
3.    Expenditures
4.    Auctions and Quotations
5.    Salary and Bills
BETTER DIGITAL MANAGEMENT AND INTEGRATION
FOR SUCCESSFUL VIRTUAL COURTS


Only the best software products can perform well under the tremendous data flow, else the systems perform inconsistently. For a better digital management of judicial processes in the district courts, the software product is the basic need. The software should be able to handle the below requirements. And also along with the product the Company should provide better technical support and customer care management of the software we use when the staff face technical issues with the system. The systems are available with software products available in the market and they are know best in the world.

1.    Huge data handling with “Zero” Errors
2.    Accessibility of the data with ease and from anywhere
3.    Efficient report generation  of the data in required format
4.    Efficient integration with the different software of the organisation

For better court management and ease of doing work each sections of the court should be digitally interconnected and the data should flow effortlessly and the software systems interact with each other with ease then only the ideal digitalisation realised. There should absolutely no human interference in any of the process. And that can be achieved with a better and single ERP/CRM software which are available in the corporate world. For example the passport system is handled by Tata Consultancy Services and they are handling it better with efficiency. It is highly recommended to implement the modules mentioned below with integration to each other are,
Human Resource Management:
For successful digital management and bring in efficient virtual court concept financial management also one of the major functions. A better ERP can handle all financial functions in a better way, without human interference.
•    Court Fees
•    Stamp Duty
•    Penalty
•    Fine
•    Process Fees
•    Copying fees
•    Payroll
•    Cheque or E-payments
•    Expenditures
Customer Relationship Management:
For the advocates and litigants queries and information can be handled online having no human interaction. Physical presence of lawyer and litigants other than court processes can be reduced to the great extent, which will save valuable time of court as well as advocates. CRM software are available in the industry.
Materials Management:
Usually materials management is used in huge manufacturing companies for better storing techniques to access safely and systematically for the easily access. A scientific method to store the required materials in certain technique. The technology can be used to store the case files, properties and furniture’s in the courts. The method is useful for safe storage and easy access. ERP systems are available in the industry.
Data Management:
The kind of data courts handle is huge, currently it is in physical form, and to make it digital is huge task and huge data. Require data management techniques like Big Data, SAP or Data warehousing kind of technology for secure and efficient handling of data. The data should be accessible with ease. Many software products are available in the industry. All the fees and deposits can be through NEFT, the reports will be available online.

                                        SUFFICIENT TRAINING TO THE GROUND LEVEL STAFF

It is undisputed that the ground level employees are one among the important driving forces of the court proceedings. Looking at the staff patter and recruitment rules, most of the official are under graduates, who have very minimal exposure to the digital world. Today, we are moving toward the digitalisation of the courts and should be from the ground level for effective implementation of digitalisation. In order to realise the optimistic future of the digitalised courts, employees must be trained, equipped with required infrastructure and modify future recruitment rules. Let’s discuss who require the digital training for effective implementation of the digitalised courts.

Training to staff deputed in Judicial Service Centre:
•    The staff should be adequately given the infrastructure like better computer system, scanner,
      Digital e payment processing, etc.
•    As there will be only e-filing and e-payments interaction with advocates is minimal. Therefore
      better training on digital system and management training to be given.
Training to Scrutiny staff:
•    Training on using the computer system adapted
•    Query raising digitally
Training to Court Hall Bench Clerk:
•    Computer knowledge and training to the Bench clerk
•    Training to understand the process of the file and storing
Training to Court Pending Clerk:
•    Digital file management
•    File storing and updating the file maintaining the process of the file digitally
Training to Accounts and Administration Branch:
•   Human resource management system and Financial management system
Training to be given to the staff as the entire process of human resource and finance management can be integrated and work in coordination.
Training to Stenographers and Judgment writers:
The orders and judgments are part of the file and should be assigned to the concerned file digitally with a single click. The training is crucial in this regard. The file, data and details will be ready with file in the system, the order and judgments should be assigned to the file, the same would be available to the system anywhere required.

CONCLUSION

As we are moving towards the paperless and cashless society, it is a must to cope with the social development to be relevant. As other organisations, Judiciary also need to adapt the new normal i,e., virtual court processes. Need a rigorous planning and management. Hoping to realise the virtual court system in Indian Judiciary.

By
Vijay Gaddigimath
Bangalore
Category : SOCIAL

Leave a Reply

CURRENT FOCUSS

CURRENT MOVIE

CURRENT EVENT