E-Courts In India: An Essential Judicial Reform Ignored By NeGP And Digital India (2009)

Editorial: This article has been originally written in the year 2009 by Praveen Dalal. It has been updated from time to time with latest time stamp. However, it has not been updated since 2016 at original source and we would update it there soon. However, we have updated the date at this blog. 

E-Courts is a crucial project under both National E-Governance Plan (NeGP) and Digital India. E-Courts project has also faced similar treatment and outcomes under both Congress and BJP Governments. Nevertheless, E-Courts project was better managed by Congress Government than BJP Government for two reasons. Firstly, all developments regarding E-Courts have taken place so far because of Congress Government and BJP has not contributed anything in this regard. Secondly, unlike BJP Government, Congress never imposed Controversial projects like Aadhaar that has become the exploitation tool of BJP Government.

E-Courts project is still at the same stage where Congress left it in the year 2014. The second stage of E-Courts is supposed to take another 3 years coinciding with the term of BJP Government i.e. till 2019. Naturally Digital India has little to offer in this regard as we are still waiting for the establishment of “First E-Court of India” till January 2019. The same would not be established till the end of 2019 as BJP Government has not shown any “Political Will” and “Implementation Capabilities” in this regard in the past five years. 

Implementation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Indian Judiciary and in Indian Courts needs rejuvenation. The successful use of e-governance for Indian e-judiciary model requires a techno-legal e-court framework. We need ICT Training and e-courts training for Indian Judicial System as soon as possible. Further, electronic courts in India must also be supported by active use of online dispute resolution (ODR) in India to reduce backlog of cases. Legal enablement of ICT systems in India is need of the hour.

Establishment of E-Courts in India is an important aspect of judicial and legal reforms in India. However, despite this pressing need India has been doing nothing in this regard except giving press statements since 2003. Till January 2019, we are still waiting for the establishment of first e-court in India. E-Courts in India cannot be established till we have experts who can manage this ambitious e-governance pilot project. Similarly, we also need to train judges and lawyers regarding not only e-courts but also for laws like cyber law and telecommunication laws. India has to do much more than mere press statements and opening of e-courts on “papers only” if it really wishes to encash the benefits of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for effective, speedier and constitutional justice delivery system. The ICT Trends of India of Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) have proved that Indian e-governance initiatives like E-Courts, E-Bharat, etc have failed due to lack of proper training, management and insight.

The current litigation system of India is not only antique in nature but has become cumbersome and time consuming as well. The backlog of cases is increasing day by day affecting the outcome of various cases. There is an emergent need of judicial and legal reforms in India so that courts in India can meet the expectations of the 21st Century. This has to be done by maintaining a stance that preserves the courts reputation and supports the courts critical role in maintaining public confidence in the protection afforded to them by the law.

The public confidence in the Criminal Justice System of India is declining and the same has forced the Government of India (GOI) to bring this issue right back to the top of the political agenda. Its aim is to cut crimes by increasing the number of criminals brought to trial and reducing the time taken to complete the legal process.

However, if the courts have to keep in step and play their part in restoring public confidence in the legal system then they must find new ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations. Information and Communication technology (ICT) can be a panacea for the dying judicial system of India. We can effectively use ICT for establishment of E-Courts in India so that E-Judiciary in India can be a reality.

However, the task is really difficult to achieve because of lack of expertise, techno-legal training and absence of time bound performance. Every year in the month of February, the tenure of E-Courts Committee is extended for another year. This shows there is a lack of Political Will to achieve the task as merely extending time for another year without performance report and accountability is just a pretext to avoid the ultimate accomplishment, i.e. establishment of E-Courts in India.

The fact remains that despite all glamorous conferences, catchy phrases and public announcements, we do not have even a single E-Court in India and there is not even a single case that has been filed, contested and finally adjudicated through an E-Court System in India till January 2019. Where those claimed E-Courts are and what cases they had adjudicated is still a big mystery.

It seems India is just making press statements years after years and courts after courts about establishment of E-Courts in India without actually establishing and operationalising them. The task of their establishment and operationalising cannot be accomplished till we honestly and dedicatedly try to achieve the same. Till now India is just adopting the half hearted efforts and evasive approach.

The establishment of E-Courts in India requires certain prerequisites. These are:

(1) E-Courts Policy: Setting Policy for various aspects of E-Courts is the first and foremost requirement. In the absence of a well defined and pre decided framework, no direction can be given to the E-Courts scheme of India.

(2) Connectivity: Creating an interconnected system across all court levels is an important aspect of E-courts. The District Courts in India must be connected with High Courts and Supreme Court for better, timely and effective disposal of cases.

(3) Simplicity And User Friendly: E-Court mechanism must be not only simple but also be user friendly. The litigants must find the e-Courts facilities in India very easy to adopt.

(4) Scope: In India we consider mere computerisation as establishment of E-Courts. In reality, E-Courts is much broader than mere computerisation and filing facilities.

(5) Authentication: Authentication plays an important role in fixing attribution and legal responsibility. There must be a “Technology Neutral Mechanism” to authenticate various stages of E-Courts usages.

(6) Integrity: E-Courts must ensure integration among court and justice systems.

(7) Security: Security of E-Courts Infrastructure and System is of paramount importance. A system must be put in place that provides secure access to case information for appropriate parties

(8) Data Keeping: All the information regarding use of E-Courts facilities must be duly recorded and stored. These include maintaining proper records of e-file minute entries, notification/service, summons, warrants, bail orders, etc for ready and subsequent references.

(9) Payment Gateway: A secure, efficient and fully operational payment gateway must be established so that various payments and fees regarding court cases can be made online.

(10) Absence Of Monopoly: The E-Courts Project must not be given to a single vendor. Instead the E-Court Committee of India must adopt a multiple vendor approach.

In the opinion of Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO), this list is just “Illustrative” and not exhaustive. Establishment of and maintaining the E-Courts Project in India requires a Techno-Legal approach including getting expertise of matters pertaining to Cyber Security, Cyber Forensics, Digital Evidencing, Prison Reforms, and many more aspects.

INDIAN E-COURTS PROJECT UPDATES OF 2019

India has limited E-Court Infrastructure and we are still waiting for the establishment of First E-Court of India till January 2019.

Source: Legal Enablement Of ICT Systems In India.

Courts Automation Systems In India, E-Courts And Online Dispute Resolution (2013)

Indian courts have been using information and communication technology (ICT) for effective judicial functioning. New features like online cause lists, filing of cases on digital mediums like CDs, providing of judgments online, use of video conferencing, etc. are already being used by courts of India.

However, automation of courts systems in India is still far from satisfactory. We are still waiting for the establishment of first e-court of India. Till now India has been able to computerise some courts alone and e-courts functionalities are still missing.

For instance, courts automation and functionalities like e-filing, submission of notices and evidence, online cross examination, online cyber forensics support, etc are still missing.

At Perry4Law and Perry4Law’s Techno Legal Base (PTLB) we are managing the exclusive techno legal e-courts training and consultancy centre of India. This e-courts centre is also managing software repositories in the fields like courts automation, cyber forensics, cyber security, online dispute resolution, etc.

Further, the e-courts centre of India is also imparting techno legal trainings in the fields like cyber law, cyber forensics, cyber security, e-courts management, courts automation, judicial and legal integration system, legal management systems, e-discovery, etc.

Skills development and trainings for lawyers, public prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, judges and court master and staff is also undertaken by PTLB.

ICT can be used to bring judicial reforms in India. At Perry4Law and PTLB we believe that establishment of e-courts in India and using online dispute resolution in India for effective and alternative dispute resolution can not only bring the pending cases down but also help in providing speedy and economic justice to the litigants.

The sooner e-courts are established in India and ODR is used for alternative dispute resolution the better it would be for the legal and judicial system of India.

Source: Legal Enablement Blog Of PTLB.

Google App Vault And Legal Compliances And Regulatory Issues In India

Cyber forensics and e-discovery are two fields that are still not paid much attention by the government, legal fraternity and judiciary of India. Cyber forensics is different from e-discovery in its scope and application. We have no legal framework for either cyber forensics or e-discovery in India and the same needs to be formulated as soon as possible. The cyber forensics trends in India also show lack of interest towards this crucial field by various stakeholders in India.

There are some crucial fields like media forensics, corporate frauds investigation, valid sting operations, cyber crime investigation capabilities, etc where India needs to pay special attention. Similarly, use of online dispute resolution (ODR) in India and e-courts in India would also give rise to additional techno legal challenges for India in the near future. The growing popularity of cyber liability insurance in India is recognition of the cyber risks that various stakeholders would face in the future.

As per media reports, Google is planning to grant access to its Google App Vault without imposing extra charges to its Apps for Education users by the end of the year. Google App Vault allows the user to retain, archive, search, and export their official mails for e-discovery and compliance purposes. However, if Google plans to extend this facility to its Indian users, this would raise serious techno legal issues as well.

For instance, the proposed e-mail policy of India may block the private e-mail services like G-mail, Yahoo, etc for official communications in the near future. This is a good step as these e-mail service providers seldom comply with Indian laws and always take a shelter behind the conflict of laws in cyberspace. We at Perry4Law believe that there must be a techno legal framework to address all these issues in India.

The starting point is to force the foreign technology companies and e-commerce websites to establish servers in India. Indian government is already contemplating forcing the Internet telephony and VOIP service providers, social media websites, etc to establish servers in India. Similarly, taxation issues pertaining to online gaming websites, technology companies like Google, e-commerce websites, etc are also required to be sorted out. Legal implications of Public Records Act, 1993 cannot be ignored while dealing in an online environment by these companies.

So far Google’s App Vault is complying with the laws of United States and Indian laws are still not been considered by it. In these circumstances, it would be a big challenge for Indian government to force Google to comply with Indian laws. This would also raise serious law enforcement and national security issues for India as data, information and other documents would be stored outside India’s territory and jurisdiction.

While this step of Google is a blessing for online skills development in India yet regulatory compliance cannot be ignored by Google and Indian government the way it has been done so far. Perry4Law hopes that Indian government would consider these aspects very seriously in the larger interests of India.

Source: TLCOEEDI.