Online Dispute Resolution In India (2006)

The aim of this article is to analyse the prospective use of online dispute resolution mechanism (ODRM) in India. The necessity of the same has arisen due to the growing use of alternative dispute resolving mechanism (ADRM) in India to reduce the burdening of the already overburdened courts in India. The popularity and use of ADRM is increasing but it can achieve its best only if the same is integrated with the information technology.

I. Introduction 

The swift growth of e-commerce and web site contracts has increased the potential for conflicts over contracts which have been entered into online. This has necessitated a solution that is compatible with online matters and is netizens centric. This challenging task can be achieved by the use of ODRM in India. The use of ODRM to resolve such e-commerce and web site contracts disputes are crucial for building consumer confidence and permitting access to justice in an online business environment. These ODRM are not part and parcel of the traditional dispute resolution machinery popularly known as “judiciary” but is an alternative and efficacious institution known as ADRM. Thus, ADR techniques are extra-judicial in character. They can be used in almost all contentious matters, which are capable of being resolved, under law, by agreement between the parties. They have been employed with very encouraging results in several categories of disputes, especially civil, commercial, industrial and family disputes. These techniques have been shown to work across the full range of business disputes like banking, contract performance, construction contracts, intellectual property rights, insurance, joint ventures, partnership differences etc. ADR offers the best solution in respect of commercial disputes. However, ADR is not intended to supplant altogether the traditional means of resolving disputes by means of litigation. It only offers alternatives to litigation. There are a large number of areas like constitutional law and criminal law where ADR cannot substitute courts. In those situations one has to take recourse of the existing traditional modes of dispute resolution.

II. The Premier Mode Of ADR 

Arbitration is the supreme method for resolving and adjudicating commercial disputes[1]. It is a procedure in which the dispute is submitted to one or more arbitrators, for adjudication, who resolve the dispute. The decision is given in the form of an award. The main objects of arbitration are speed, economy, convenience and simplicity of procedures. It encourages healthy relationship between the parties. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 governs the “arbitration procedures” in India. Section 5 of the Act provides that notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, in matters governed by Part I (Sections 2 to 43), no judicial authority shall intervene except where so provided in the said part. This clearly indicates the legislative intent to minimise supervisory role of courts to ensure that the intervention of the court is minimal. Section 4 is a deeming provision, which lays down that where a party proceeds with the arbitration without stating his objection to non-compliance of any provision of Part I from which the parties may derogate or any requirement under arbitration agreement, it shall be deemed that he has waived his right to so object. Section 7 provides that the arbitration agreement shall be in writing and such an agreement may be in the form of an arbitration clause in a contract or in the form of a separate agreement. Sub-section (4) of Section 7 provides the conditions under which a document or exchange of letter or exchange of statement of claim and defence may amount to an arbitration agreement. Section 11 of the Act provides for appointment of arbitrators and sub-section (6) thereof empowers the Chief Justice of the High Court or any person or institution designated by him to make such an appointment on the happening of certain conditions enumerated in clauses (a), (b) or (c). Section 16 of the Act is important and it provides that the arbitral tribunal may rule on its own jurisdiction, including ruling on any objections with respect to the existence or authority of the arbitration agreement[2]. Thus, the base provided by the Act is sufficient to accommodate the mandates of ODRM. It must be noted that a court of law cannot render justice unless the ultimate decision is based on the contemporary law as prevailing in the society. A decision based on an old law, which does not satisfy the requirements of the present situation, and environment should be avoided. In such a situation the efforts of the courts should be to give the law a “purposive, updating and an ongoing interpretation”. This position makes the interface of justice delivery system with the information technology inevitable and unavoidable. We cannot allow the dead hand of the past to stifle the growth of the living present. Law cannot stand still; it must change with the changing social concepts and values. If the bark that protects the tree fails to grow and expand along with the tree, it will either choke the tree or if it is a living tree, it will shed that bark and grow a new living bark for itself. Similarly, if the law fails to respond to the needs of changing society, then either it will stifle the growth of the society and choke its progress or if the society is vigorous enough, it will cast away the law, which stands in the way of its growth. Law must therefore constantly keep on adapting itself to the fast changing society and not lag behind[3]. Justice is supreme and justice ought to be beneficial for the society so that the society is placed in a better-off situation. Law courts exist for the society and ought to rise up to the occasion to do the needful in the matter, and as such ought to act in a manner so as to sub serve the basic requirement of the society. It is a requirement of the society and the law must respond to its need. The greatest virtue of the law is its flexibility and its adaptability; it must change from time to time so that it answers the cry of the people, the need of the hour and the order of the day. Thus, the justice delivery system cannot afford to take the information technology revolution lightly[4]. The judiciary in India has not only recognised this need but has also utilised the information technology to do complete justice. The Supreme Court has on various occasions encouraged the use of information technology for meeting the ends of justice and to do complete justice. There is nothing that shows that the courts in India will not encourage the concept of ODRM in India. The Supreme Court has encouraged the use of ADR techniques in India and very soon the same will be extended to ODRM as well.

III. E-Justice System In India 

The judicial response vis-à-vis information technology is positive and technology friendly.

In M/S SIL Import, USA v M/S Exim Aides Silk Exporters[5] the words “notice in writing”, in Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, were construed to include a notice by fax. The Supreme Court observed: “A notice envisaged u/s 138 can be sent by fax. Nowhere is it said that such notice must be sent by registered post or that it should be dispatched through a messenger. Chapter XVII of the Act, containing sections 138 to 142 was inserted in the Act as per Banking Public Financial Institution and Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act, 1988.Technologiacl advancements like Fax, Internet, E-mail, etc were on swift progress even before the Bill for the Amendment Act was discussed by the Parliament. When the legislature contemplated that notice in writing should be given to the drawer of the cheque, the legislature must be presumed to have been aware of the modern devices and equipments already in vogue and also in store for future. If the court were to interpret the words “giving notice in writing” in the section as restricted to the customary mode of sending notice through postal service or even by personal delivery, the interpretative process will fail to cope up with the change of time. So if the notice envisaged in clause (b) of the proviso to section 138 was transmitted by Fax, it would be compliance with the legal requirement”.

Thus the requirement of a written notice will be satisfied if the same is given in the form of a fax, e-mail etc, using the information technology. It must be noted that a notice by e-mail can be send instantaneously and its delivery is assured and acknowledged by a report showing the due delivery of the same to the recipient. This method is more safe, accurate, economical and lesser time consuming as compared to its traditional counterpart, popularly known as “Registered A.D”.

In Basavaraj R. Patil v State of Karnataka[6] the question was whether an accused need to be physically present in court to answer the questions put to him by the court whilst recording his statement under section 313. The majority held that the section had to be considered in the light of the revolutionary changes in technology of communication and transmission and the marked improvement in the facilities of legal aid in the country. It was held that it was not necessary that in all cases the accused must answer by personally remaining present in the court. Once again, the importance of information technology is apparent. If a person residing in a remote area of South India is required to appear in the court for giving evidence, then he should not be called from that place, instead the medium of “video conferencing” should be used. In that case the requirements of justice are practically harmonised with the ease and comfort of the witnesses, which can drastically improve the justice delivery system.

In State of Maharashtra v Dr.Praful.B.Desai[7] the Supreme Court observed: “The evidence can be both oral and documentary and electronic records can be produced as evidence. This means that evidence, even in criminal matters, can also be by way of electronic records. This would include video conferencing. Video conferencing is an advancement in science and technology which permits one to see, hear and talk with someone far away, with the same facility and ease as if he is present before you i.e. in your presence. Thus, it is clear that so long as the accused and/or his pleader are present when evidence is recorded by video conferencing that evidence is recorded in the “presence” of the accused and would thus fully meet the requirements of section 273, Criminal Procedure Code. Recording of such evidence would be as per “procedure established by law”. The advancement of science and technology is such that now it is possible to set up video conferencing equipments in the court itself. In that case evidence would be recorded by the magistrate or under his dictation in the open court. To this method there is however a drawback. As the witness is not in the court there may be difficulties if commits contempt of court or perjures himself. Therefore as a matter of prudence evidence by video conferencing in open court should be only if the witness is in a country which has an extradition treaty with India and under whose laws contempt of court and perjury are also punishable”.

This judgment of the Supreme Court is a landmark judgment as it has the potential to seek help of those witnesses who are crucial for rendering the complete justice but who cannot come due to “territorial distances” or even due to fear, expenses, old age, etc. The Courts in India have the power to maintain anonymity of the witnesses to protect them from threats and harm and the use of information technology is the safest bet for the same. The testimony of a witness can be recorded electronically the access to which can be legitimately and lawfully denied by the Courts to meet the ends of justice.

The above discussion shows that the judiciary in India is not only aware of the advantages of information technology but is actively and positively using it in the administration of justice, particularly the criminal justice. Thus, it can be safely concluded that the “E-justice system” has found its existence in India. It is not at all absurd to suggest that ODRM will also fine its place in the Indian legal system very soon.

IV. Online Dispute Resolution

The ADR mechanism can be effectively used to settle online disputes by modifying it as per the need. It is time effective and cost efficient. It can also overcome the geographical hurdles. However, there are certain issues revolving around ADR mechanism like need for personnel with knowledge of IT, ADR and law; technical concerns; legal sanctity of proceedings; industry support etc. But these hurdles are just a passing phase. The use of ADR mechanisms for resolving online disputes is increasing day by day. A number of web-sites provide for some type of online dispute resolution method like arbitration, negotiation, mediation etc. and also certain conflict management services. These services fall into the general categories of complaint handling, negotiation, mediation and arbitration. These services will be in great demand in the future since the 1996 Act has given paramount importance to “party autonomy” by accepting the intention of parties as a platform for dispute resolution. Thus, what law will be applicable will depend on the intention of parties. If the parties have adopted the mechanism of ODRM then it will definitely apply with necessary minor modifications. The language used in various sections of the Arbitration Act give options to the parties to opt for the procedure as per their agreement during the arbitral proceedings before the arbitrator. So if there is an agreement between the parties with regard to the procedure to be followed by the arbitrator, the arbitrator is required to follow the said procedure. However, this would not mean that in appeal parties can contend that the appellate procedure should be as per their agreement. The appellate procedure would be governed as per the statutory provisions and parties have no right to change the same[8]. It must be noted that party autonomy presupposes the existence of an arbitration agreement. There may be a situation where the parties had not entered into an arbitration agreement. To meet such situations Section 89 of CPC can be invoked. The reason for inserting Sec.89 has been to try and see that all the cases which are filed in the court need not necessarily be decided by the court itself. Keeping in mind the law delays and the limited number of judges, which are available, it has now become imperative to resort to ADR Mechanism as contemplated by Sec.89. There is a requirement that the parties to the suit must indicate the form of ADR, which they would like to resort to during the pendency of the trial of the suit. If the parties agree to arbitration, then the provisions of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 will apply and that will go outside the stream of the court[9].

V. Conclusion

The need and necessity of ODRM is going to be felt very soon and we must be prepared for the same. A sound techno-legal base must be established in advance. There is a possibility that we may get BPO services in arbitration matters in the distant future. In any case it is also a mandate of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Art.21 confers a Fundamental Right on every person not to be deprived of his life or liberty, except according to procedure established by law. Such procedure is not some semblance of a procedure but the procedure should be “reasonable, fair and just”, and therefrom flows the right to speedy trial[10]. It cannot be doubted that if the State is encouraging ODRM it is thereby assisting in the attainment of a speedier, economical and convenient justice system. Thus, the sooner ODRM is adopted the better it will be for the nation in general and the justice seeker in particular.

[1] The other methods like conciliation, mediation, etc are also available but arbitration is generally used to resolve the disputes.
[2] Shree Subhlaxmi Fabrics Pvt. Ltd. v Chand Mal Baradia, Civil appeal no: 7653 of 2004.
[3] Justice Bhagwati in National Textile Worker’s Union v P.R.Ramakrishnan, (1983) 1 SCC 228, at p. 256.
[4] Praveen Dalal, “Justice through electronic governance”,
http://legalsolutionsindia.blogspot.com/2005/11/justice-through-electronic-governance.html
[5] AIR 1999 SC 1609.
[6] (2000) 8 SCC 740.
[7] 2003 (3) SCALE 554.
[8] N S Nayak v State of Goa, 2003 (6) SCC 56.
[9] Salem Advocate Bar Association v U.O.I, Writ Petition No.496 of 2002 decided on 25.10.2002.
[10] Hussainara Khatoon (1) v Home Secretary, State of Bihar [(1980)1SCC 81]

Source: Electronic Courts In India

Electronic Governance And Justice In India (2006)

The aim of this article is to analyse the use of information technology by the Apex Court for the purposes of delivering justice in its true and practical perspective. A special reference of the Information Technology Act, 2000 has been made to provide an insight of the possible uses of e-governance for a sound justice delivery system.

I. IntroductionThe World Bank defines e-governance as the use of information and communication technologies by government agencies to transform relations with citizens, business world and other arms of the government. Ever since the creation of Ministry of Information Technology in the Union Government, State and union Territories expressed commitment for providing effective, responsive and transparent citizen governance through the use of Information Technology. E-governance is used as a synonym for an Information Technology driven system of governance that works better, costs less and is capable of servicing people’s needs. It is also broadly defined as the use of Information Technology for efficient delivery of Government services to the people, business world and industry. The term e-governance involves the computerization and networking of all government departments and linking each district and taluka, with the State headquarters. The objective of e-governance in India goes beyond mere computerization of government offices. It fundamentally means changing the way the government operates and implies a new set of responsibilities for civil servants, business world and the public. Plans such as online services will give an average citizen access to Government services, with faster responses at more convenient hours. These services include providing information, collecting taxes, granting licenses, administering regulations and paying grants and benefits. The aim of e-governance is to eliminate middlemen and corruption. Once people know that information could not be monopolized, they would demand access to it[1].II. E-Governance And The Justice Delivery System

The first duty of a court is to do justice. If the “rule of law” has been declared to be a “basic feature” of the Constitution, which cannot be taken away even by exercising the constitutional power of amendment, then “rule of justice” is definitely above it and deserves the status of the basic feature of the constitution. This is so because the concept of justice is wider and is of greater importance than the rule of law because:

(1) The express incorporation of Article 142 in the Constitution of India assures this guarantee. The Supreme Court in exercise of its jurisdiction can pass such decree or make such order as is necessary “for doing complete justice” in any cause or matter pending before it. For instance, the Supreme Court can extend the benefit of its judgment to a case not in appeal[2]. In D.D.A v Skipper Construction Co (P) Ltd[3] the Supreme Court observed that it is advisable to leave this power undefined and uncatalogued, so that it remains elastic enough, to be moulded to suit the given situation.

(2) There may not be any law governing any particular situation, but the justice may require taking of an immediate and inevitable action.

(3) There may be a law, which does not satisfy the present demands and requirements of the society at large.

(4) The mandates of morality require taking of an action, which is normally not taken.

(5) The concept of justice, equity and good conscience may be applicable in a given situation where the law has left a vacuum or is not addressing the problem in hand in an appropriate manner.

Thus, the courts in India to do complete justice invoke the concept of “rule of justice”. This does not mean that one can ignore the concept of rule of law. It must be appreciated that both rule of law and rule of justice must go hand in hand to make the justice system just, fair and reasonable. In today’s world we cannot afford to say that “justice must not only be done but it must also be seemed to be done”. The concept of justice requires that:

(1) it must firstly be done in a just, fair and reasonable manner,
(2) it must be seemed to be done, and
(3) it must be “felt” to be done.Thus, unless this third element of “felt to be done” is satisfied, the concept of justice is not complete because this third element is the most important component of justice delivery system. The public at large in India has a great faith in Indian judiciary and this third element is absolutely essential to maintain and preserve that faith and confidence. A court of law cannot render justice unless the ultimate decision is based on the contemporary law as prevailing in the society. A decision based on an old law, which does not satisfy the requirements of the present situation, and environment should be avoided. In such a situation the efforts of the courts should be to give the law a “purposive, updating and an ongoing interpretation”. This position makes the interface of justice delivery system with the information technology inevitable and unavoidable. We cannot allow the dead hand of the past to stifle the growth of the living present. Law cannot stand still; it must change with the changing social concepts and values. If the bark that protects the tree fails to grow and expand along with the tree, it will either choke the tree or if it is a living tree, it will shed that bark and grow a new living bark for itself. Similarly, if the law fails to respond to the needs of changing society, then either it will stifle the growth of the society and choke its progress or if the society is vigorous enough, it will cast away the law, which stands in the way of its growth. Law must therefore constantly keep on adapting itself to the fast changing society and not lag behind[4]. Justice is supreme and justice ought to be beneficial for the society so that the society is placed in a better-off situation. Law courts exist for the society and ought to rise up to the occasion to do the needful in the matter, and as such ought to act in a manner so as to sub serve the basic requirement of the society. It is a requirement of the society and the law must respond to its need. The greatest virtue of the law is its flexibility and its adaptability; it must change from time to time so that it answers the cry of the people, the need of the hour and the order of the day. Thus, the justice delivery system cannot afford to take the information technology revolution lightly.

III. Legislative Efforts To Bring Technology Revolution

To meet the challenges posed by the information technology, the Parliament has enacted the Information Technology Act, 2000. The aim of the Act is to provide a sound base for e-governance and e-commerce. It must be noted that the e-governance base can be effectively utilized for maintaining a sound justice delivery system. The various requirements, which are inevitable for the smooth functioning of the justice system, are adequately, economically and safely taken care of by the e-governance. For instance, electronic records are legally recognised, digital signatures have been given the status of signature in writing, a notification in electronic gazette is considered to be a valid notification, etc. The following provisions of the Act reflect India’s determination to utilize the benefits of e-governance for judicial purposes:

(1) Legal Recognition Of E-Records – Section 4 provides that where any law requires that information or any other matter shall be in writing or type written or in printed form. Such requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied if such information or matter is rendered or made available in an e-form and accessible so as to be usable for a subsequent reference. The term e-record means data, record or data generated, image or sound stored, received or sent in an e-form or microfilm or computer generated microfiche[5]. The term e-form, with reference to information, means any information generated, sent, received or stored in media, magnetic, optical, computer memory, microfilm, computer generated microfiche or similar device[6]. Thus as an alternative to paper based record, e-record has been recognised as a medium of communication and storage of information. Further, if an e-record is authenticated by digital signature, it can be produced as evidence for the inspection of the courts. This arrangement is definitely hassle free and more transparent as compared to traditional methods of record keeping. Further, it is not prone to tampering unlike paper-based record, which is difficult to maintain and has its own limitations.

(2) Legal Recognition Of Digital Signatures- Section 5 of the Act mandates that if any information or any other matter is required by law to be authenticated by affixing the signature, then such requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied if such information or matter is authenticated by means of digital signature affixed in the prescribed manner. The type of digital signature that shall be used to authenticate an e-record shall be as per the rules that may be framed by the Central Government. The rule may prescribe the manner or procedure to facilitate identification of the person affixing the digital signature. It may also prescribe the safeguards to ensure integrity, authenticity and confidentiality of e-records. Further the rule may provide any other matter, which is necessary to give legal effect to digital signatures[7].

(3) Use In Government And Its Agencies- Section 6 of the Act recognises use of e-records and digital signatures in government and its agencies for filing, issue, grant, receipt or payment of money as an acceptable mode. The Central Government as well as the State Governments is empowered to prescribe the manner and format in which the e-records shall be filed, created, retained or issued. They may prescribe the manner or method of payment of any fee or charges for filing, creation or issue of any e-record.

(4) Retention Of E-Records- Section 7 is an enabling section, which provides that if any law mandates that documents, records or information are required to be retained for any specific period, then, that requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied if the same is retained in e-form.

(5) Electronic-Gazette- Publication of official gazette in e-form is permitted by Sec.8 of the act. Accordingly, where any law requires publication of rule, regulation, order, byelaw, notification or other matter in the gazette, publication thereof in e-form is permitted. If such publication is made in the e-form, the requirement of publication in the official gazette is deemed to have been fulfilled. When an official gazette is published in printed form as well as electronic gazette, the date of publication shall be the date on which the gazette was first published in any form.

(6) Non-Absolute Right- The provisions of Sec.9 mandates that e-governance, as envisaged in the Information Technology Act, does not confer a right upon any person to insist any Ministry or Department of the Central or State Government or any authority or body to accept, issue, create, retain or preserve any document in the form of e-records or to participate in any monetary transaction in the e-form. Thus, sufficient safeguards have been taken to establish a proper and timely e-governance base.

(7) Possible Uses Of E-Governance- The future of e-governance is very bright. With the help of information technology, the daily matters can be effectively taken care of irrespective of the field covered by it. For instance, the Delhi Police Headquarter has launched a website, which can be used for lodging a First Information Report. Similarly, the Patna High Court has taken a bold step of granting bail on the basis of an online bail application. The educational institutions, including universities, are issuing admission forms electronically, which can be downloaded from their respective websites. The results of examinations of various educational institutions, both school level and university level, are available online, which can be obtained without any trouble. These are but some of the instances of the use of technology for a better e-governance.

The beneficial concept of e-governance can be utilized for the following purposes:

(1) To have access to public documents.

(2) For making online payments of various bills and dues.

(3) To file statutory documents online[8].

(4) To file the complaints, grievances and suggestions of citizens online.

(5) The online facility can be used to enter into a partnership the appropriate government in cases of government contracts.

(6) The citizens can use the online facility to file their income tax returns[9].

(7) The citizens will enjoy the facility of online services.

(8) The various departments of the government can be computerized and centralized and the responsibility for its proper maintenance can be fixed on an agency like National Informatics Centre.

It must be noted that to give effect to these provisions appropriate amendments have been made in the I.P.C, 1860, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Bankers’ Books Evidence Act, 1891 and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.These amendments have made these statutes compatible with the “e-justice system”.

IV. Judicial Reception Of information Technology

The judicial response vis-à-vis information technology is positive and technology friendly.

In M/S SIL Import, USA v M/S Exim Aides Silk Exporters[10] the words “notice in writing”, in Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, were construed to include a notice by fax. The Supreme Court observed: “A notice envisaged u/s 138 can be sent by fax. Nowhere is it said that such notice must be sent by registered post or that it should be dispatched through a messenger. Chapter XVII of the Act, containing sections 138 to 142 was inserted in the Act as per Banking Public Financial Institution and Negotiable Instruments Laws (Amendment) Act, 1988.Technologiacl advancements like Fax, Internet, E-mail, etc were on swift progress even before the Bill for the Amendment Act was discussed by the Parliament. When the legislature contemplated that notice in writing should be given to the drawer of the cheque, the legislature must be presumed to have been aware of the modern devices and equipments already in vogue and also in store for future. If the court were to interpret the words “giving notice in writing” in the section as restricted to the customary mode of sending notice through postal service or even by personal delivery, the interpretative process will fail to cope up with the change of time. So if the notice envisaged in clause (b) of the proviso to section 138 was transmitted by Fax, it would be compliance with the legal requirement”.

Thus the requirement of a written notice will be satisfied if the same is given in the form of a fax, e-mail etc, using the information technology. It must be noted that a notice by e-mail can be send instantaneously and its delivery is assured and acknowledged by a report showing the due delivery of the same to the recipient. This method is more safe, accurate, economical and lesser time consuming as compared to its traditional counterpart, popularly known as “Registered A.D”.

In Basavaraj R. Patil v State of Karnataka[11] the question was whether an accused need to be physically present in court to answer the questions put to him by the court whilst recording his statement under section 313. The majority held that the section had to be considered in the light of the revolutionary changes in technology of communication and transmission and the marked improvement in the facilities of legal aid in the country. It was held that it was not necessary that in all cases the accused must answer by personally remaining present in the court. Once again, the importance of information technology is apparent. If a person residing in a remote area of South India is required to appear in the court for giving evidence, then he should not be called from that place, instead the medium of “video conferencing” should be used. In that case the requirements of justice are practically harmonised with the ease and comfort of the witnesses, which can drastically improve the justice delivery system.

In State of Maharashtra v Dr.Praful.B.Desai[12] the Supreme Court observed: “The evidence can be both oral and documentary and electronic records can be produced as evidence. This means that evidence, even in criminal matters, can also be by way of electronic records. This would include video conferencing. Video conferencing is an advancement in science and technology which permits one to see, hear and talk with someone far away, with the same facility and ease as if he is present before you i.e. in your presence. Thus, it is clear that so long as the accused and/or his pleader are present when evidence is recorded by video conferencing that evidence is recorded in the “presence” of the accused and would thus fully meet the requirements of section 273, Criminal Procedure Code. Recording of such evidence would be as per “procedure established by law”. The advancement of science and technology is such that now it is possible to set up video conferencing equipments in the court itself. In that case evidence would be recorded by the magistrate or under his dictation in the open court. To this method there is however a drawback. As the witness is not in the court there may be difficulties if commits contempt of court or perjures himself. Therefore as a matter of prudence evidence by video conferencing in open court should be only if the witness is in a country which has an extradition treaty with India and under whose laws contempt of court and perjury are also punishable”.

This judgment of the Supreme Court is a landmark judgment as it has the potential to seek help of those witnesses who are crucial for rendering the complete justice but who cannot come due to “territorial distances” or even due to fear, expenses, old age, etc. The Courts in India have the power to maintain anonymity of the witnesses to protect them from threats and harm and the use of information technology is the safest bet for the same. The testimony of a witness can be recorded electronically the access to which can be legitimately and lawfully denied by the Courts to meet the ends of justice.

Once again the safety of victims and the witnesses through the use of information technology was recognised by the Supreme Court in Sakshi v U.O.I[13]. The Supreme Court in this case observed: ” The whole inquiry before a court being to elicit the truth, it is absolutely necessary that the victim or the witnesses are able to depose about the entire incident in a free atmosphere without any embarrassment. Section 273 Cr.P.C merely requires the evidence to be taken in the presence of the accused. The section, however, does not say that the evidence should be recorded in such a manner that the accused should have full view of the victim or the witnesses. Recording of evidence by video conferencing has already been upheld. Moreover, there is a major difference between substantive provisions defining crimes and providing punishment for the same and procedural enactment laying down the procedure of trial of such offences. Rules of procedure are handmaiden of justice and are meant to advance and not to obstruct the cause of justice. It is, therefore, permissible for the court to expand or enlarge the meanings of such provisions in order to elicit the truth and do justice with the parties. Thus, in holding trial of child sex abuse or rape a screen or some arrangements may be made where the victim or witness (who may be equally vulnerable like the victim) do not see the body or face of the accused. Recording of evidence by way of video conferencing vis-à-vis Section 273 Cr.P.C is permissible”.

The above discussion shows that the judiciary in India is not only aware of the advantages of information technology but is actively and positively using it in the administration of justice, particularly the criminal justice.

V. Conclusion

The advent of information technology has changed the mode of working of almost all the spheres of the life. The justice delivery system has also been benefited by this technological revolution. It must be noted that one of the cardinal rule of interpretation is that the Parliament intends the Courts to apply an ongoing Act a construction that continuously updates its wordings to allow for changes since the Act was initially framed. An enactment of the former days is thus to be read today, in the light of the dynamic processing received over the years. The Constitution is organic and living in nature. It is also well settled that the interpretation of the Constitution of India or statutes would change from time to time. Being a living organ, it is ongoing and with passage of time, law must change. New rights may have to be found out within the constitutional scheme. It is established that fundamental rights themselves have no fixed content; most of them are empty vessels into which each generation must pour its contents in the light of its experience. The attempt of the court should be to expand the reach and ambit of the fundamental rights by process of judicial interpretation. There cannot be any distinction between the fundamental rights mentioned in Chapter III of the Constitution and the declaration of such rights on the basis of the judgments rendered by the Supreme Court[14]. This valuable and golden rule of interpretation has been properly appreciated and adequately applied by the Indian judiciary in the context of information technology. Thus, it can be safely concluded that the “E-justice system” has found its existence in India.

End Notes

[1] Anupama Katakam; ‘Information Technology: Towards E-Governance’, The Frontline 78, 10th December 1999.
[2] Manganese Ore v Chande, AIR 1991 SC 520.
[3] AIR 1996 SC 2005.
[4] Justice Bhagwati in National Textile Worker’s Union v P.R.Ramakrishnan, (1983) 1 SCC 228, at p. 256.
[5] Sec.2 (1) (t) of IT Act, 2000
[6] Sec.2 (1) (r) of IT Act, 2000
[7] Sec.10 of IT Act, 2000
[8] Recently the SEBI has allowed filing of specified documents online by the listed companies vide, SMD/Policy/Cir-17/02 dated 3rd July 2002.
[9] Assessment year 2002-03, the bulk filing of returns of the employees by the employer on computer readable medium has been recognised by Sec.139 (1A) of the Income Tax Act.1961.
[10] AIR 1999 SC 1609.
[11] (2000) 8 SCC 740.
[12] 2003 (3) SCALE 554.
[13] (2004) 5 SCC 519.
[14] P.U.C.L v U.O.I, (2003) (3) SCALE 263.

ICT Trends in India 2006 By Praveen Dalal (2006)

In furtherance of our “Corporate Social Responsibility” the Law Firm Perry4Law would provide a regular and annual analysis of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) trends in India. The Law Firm Perry4Law is the First and Exclusive Techno-Legal Firm in India and is managing Perry4Law’s Techno-Legal Base TM/SM * (PTLB TM/SM*) and ICT HELPDESK TM/SM*. PTLB TM/SM* and ICT HELPDESK TM/SM* are coordinating and collaborating International and National initiatives that primarily rely upon ICT for their successful operation and existence. PTLB TM/SM* will provide service pertaining to Cyber Law, Cyber Forensics Cyber Security, Techno-Legal E-learning Services, Due Diligence Compliance Audit, E-commerce, E-governance, ADR and ODR, IPRs, International Trade etc. This is the first trend analysis of Perry4Law.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is changing the face of contemporary World. The ICT has not only connected the World at one single platform but it is also helping in the integration of various traditional societiesinto modern societies. The mandates of globalisation also require an interaction between Indian economy and World’s economy. Globalisation is closely related to ICT and the ICT strategy of a nation is very crucial to put it on a global map. The ICT strategy in India must be techno-legal in nature rather than purely legal or purely technological. Unfortunately, Indian ICT Strategy is not upto the mark and the same is further degraded with the introduction of the proposed amendments to the IT Act, 2000 (if the original recommendations have been accepted as it is). The concepts of cyber forensics in India, cyber security in India, computer security in India, etc have not yet got the attention of the Indian Parliament.

Though India is emerging as a leader in the field of ICT related services yet there seems to be some missing links. They pertain to the following:

(a) The requirement of paying attention to e-security in India that covers cyber forensics, computer and cyber security, etc.

(b) The cyber law in India also imposes certain restrictions and their violations may take the form of offences and contraventions. Cyber crimes in India are taken care of by the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act, 2000) that also mandates adherence to certain compliance requirements. These aspects must be kept in mind by Companies, Individual and even by the Government.

(c) The establishment of digital evidencing base is an absolute requirement in India. The same is missing for the time being.

(d) There is also a dire need of judicial reforms in India keeping in mind the requirements of ICT.

(e) The establishment of electronic courts in India would be a good step towards implementing the judicial reforms in India in an effective manner.

(f) The electronic era has its own challenges that must be tackled effectively.

(g) The introduction of wireless technology in India would require its own security requirements. Thus, the wireless security in India must be considered on a priority basis.

(h) There are legal risks of electronic commerce as well that also cannot be ignored.

(i) The internet banking in India must also be developed so that a sound e-commerce platform can be established in India.

(j) At the same time the ICT strategy in India must be “reformulated” so that it is conducive for the overall development of Indian economy.

(k) E-learning in India must be used for techno-legal educational purposes in India.

(l) We also need Techno-Legal education in India to cater the need of legal KPO and legal BPO.

(m) The proposed amendments of the cyber law of India, i.e. IT Act, 2000 must be made public and transparent. The IT Act, 2000 must be amended properly and the proposed amendments to the IT Act, 2000, as originally suggested by the Expert Committee, must be rejected at all costs. If some changes have been made in the original recommendations of the Expert Committee, they must be discussed with various segments associated with the cyber law of India.

(n) We must appreciate that e-governance without security is useless.

Nothing short of a techno-legal compliance can provide a viable solution for these missing links. We need initiatives on the lines of PTLB TM/SM . It is apparent that the missing links pertain to securing the ICT infrastructure and cyberspace. It may take the form of on-site security measure or private defence in Cyberspace. This becomes essential to tackle the menace of cyber crimes and cyber terrorism. The preventive measures for ATM Frauds also have their origin in e-security.

Even the legal BPO in India requires a sound base.

The existing deficiencies of the ICT Strategy of India must be removed. The missing links must be put in the chain of ICT so that we can utilise its benefit to maximum extent. Every base requires time, money, energy and resources so that it may mature and suit the requirements. If we consider the “futuristic aspect” of the present cyber law in India that it is clear that this is the high time that we must establish a base. We may face many difficulties but than we will face them in any case. We need to capatilise “collective expertise” and an “ideal public-private partnership” base in India. Even the proposed laws like Broadcasting Bill-06 have certain deficiencies and they must be removed while enacting the ultimate law in this regard.

Source: UNPAN And UN.

Background Information: This article was picked up by UNPAN in 2006 from http://perry4law.blogspot.com/. Another Blog Of Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) is http://legalsolutionsindia.blogspot.com/2006/12/cyber-law-in-india.html that has also been cited in this articles that was operational in 2004 but now is restricted and is not available for public view. Other restricted Blogs include among others:

(1) http://perry4law.blogspot.com/,

(2) http://legalsolutionsindia.blogspot.com/,

(3) http://cyberforensicsinindia.blogspot.com/,

(4) http://cyberlawindia.blogspot.com/,

(5) http://indian-judiciary.blogspot.com/, etc.

In 2006, E-Courts Project was shifted to Perry4Law.Com website and these Blogs were restricted for public view. In 2008, PTLB.In and Perry4Law.Org websites were launched to strengthen ODR and E-Courts Projects. In 2012, ElectronicCourts.In was launched for specific requirements of E-Courts of India and E-Courts 4 Justice (EC4J) Project was launched in 2014 as part of these E-Courts Projects of P4LO that were in operation since 2004.

Cyber Police Reforms In India Are Needed (2011)

Police reforms in India are long overdue. Whether it is on the front of legal framework, prison conditions, police accountability and transparency or any other similar aspect, police reforms in India have been stagnant.

Some of these reforms pertain to infrastructure while others pertain to policy formulation and still others regarding brand and image making of police in India. While these reforms can be managed through political will yet one reform area that cannot be achieved through mere political will pertains to training of police force in technology related issues.

For instance, we do not have enough cyber crime investigation capabilities in India till now. Cyber crime investigation in India is still far from satisfactory and there are selective police officials who are aware of technological issues and technological laws like information technology act 2000 (IT Act 2000).

At Perry4Law and Perry4Law Techno Legal Base (PTLB) we have been working in the direction of removing these obstacles for the law enforcement officials of India. PTLB has been managing a techno legal ICT training centre for police force that intends to fill this void and make our police force techno legal in nature.

Perry4Law and PTLB suggest that police force of India must be well versed in areas like cyber law, cyber security attacks, cyber forensics, digital evidencing and e-discovery, video conferencing evidence, e-courts, etc.

Presently, these issues are not considered by police force of India. To start with police force must be made aware of the cyber law of India and its applicable provisions. Further, police in India also needs to learn how to investigate a cyber crime. Simple issues of cyber forensics like internet protocol address tracking and data recovery must also be learned by police force of India.

Indian government in general and ministry of home affairs in particular must pay special attention to these issues as ambitious projects like national intelligence grid (Natgrid), crime and criminal tracking network and systems (CCTNS), etc cannot be run successfully through an untrained police and intelligence force.

Cyber skill and intelligence gathering skills need to be developed in India as soon as possible. Perry4Law and PTLB hope that our suggestions would be considered by Indian government for the larger interest of all concerned.

Source: IIPS.

Validity Of Electronic Legal Notices And Processes In India Through E-Mails (2013)

At Perry4Law we receive numerous legal queries regarding legality of sending and receiving of a legal notice through electronic mail (E-Mail) or other electronic mediums. In order to spread public awareness in this regard, we are providing the legal position as applicable in India.

The Information Technology Act, 2000 recognises sending of electronic records for various purposes, including legal notices, if certain conditions are satisfied. Both Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court have already prescribed guidelines in this regard.

A Three Judge Bench of Supreme Court of India in Central Electricity Regulatory Commission v. National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd, Civil Appeal No. (D.21216/2010), (2010) 10 SCC 280 observed that in various Courts, the statistical data indicates that, on account of delay in process serving, arrears keep on mounting. In Delhi itself, the input indicates that fifty per cent of the arrears in Courts particularly in commercial cases is on account of delay in process serving.

For the above reasons, the following directions, as mentioned hereinbelow, are given:

(i) In addition to normal mode of service, service of Notice(s) may be effected by E-Mail for which the advocate(s) on-record will, at the time of filing of petition/appeal, furnish to the filing counter a soft copy of the entire petition/appeal in PDF format;

(ii) The advocate(s) on-record shall also simultaneously submit E-Mail addresses of the respondent(s) Companies/Corporation(s) to the filing counter of the Registry. This will be in addition to the hard copy of the petition/appeal;

(iii) If the Court issues notice, then, in that event alone, the Registry will send such an additional notice at the E-Mail addresses of the respondent(s) Companies/Corporation(s) via E-Mail;

(iv) The Registry will also send Notice at the E-Mail address of the advocate(s) for respondent(s) Companies/Corporation(s), who have filed caveat. Advocate(s) on-record filing caveat shall provide his/her E-Mail address for effecting service; and

(v) Within two weeks from today, Cabinet Secretariat shall also provide centralized E-Mail addresses of various Ministries/Departments/ Regulatory Authorities along with the names of the Nodal Officers, if already appointed, for the purposes of service.

The above facility is being extended in addition to the modes of service mentioned in the existing Supreme Court Rules. This facility, for the time being, is extended to commercial litigation and to those cases where the advocate(s) on-record seeks urgent interim reliefs.

The Delhi High Court, in exercise of powers under Part X of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) and Order V, Rule 9 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and all other powers enabling it in this behalf, has also made Rules regarding service of legal notices through E-Mail. These rules allow service of legal notices and processes through E-Mails if the conditions prescribed therein are duly complied with.

Similarly, A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Sanjiv Khanna has ensured early release of undertrials and accused who are granted bail by directing all Delhi courts as well as its own officials to e-mail a copy of bail orders to Tihar jail authorities within 24 hours of being pronounced.

The Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court are also working in the direction of establishment of E-Courts in India as soon as possible. Presently, computerisation work has been finished to a greater extent and we may witness the e-filing facility as well in the near future. Once linked to the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), a proper e-court infrastructure can be established in India.

So those who believe that legal notices or legal processes cannot be sent through e-mail must think again as the necessary legal and judicial framework in this regard already exists in India.

Source: IIPS.