[Transitioning To Paperless Courts] Kerala Court Permits ED To Furnish Digital Copies Of 26,000 Page Documents To 55 Accused Persons
A Kerala Court on Tuesday permitted the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) to furnish digital copies of documents having 26,000 pages to be furnished to 55 accused persons, instead of hard copies. The decision has been instrumental in enabling the ED to save around Rs. 17 lakhs of central exchequer, which was the expected expenditure it would have incurred in supplying hard copies of the...
A Kerala Court on Tuesday permitted the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) to furnish digital copies of documents having 26,000 pages to be furnished to 55 accused persons, instead of hard copies.
The decision has been instrumental in enabling the ED to save around Rs. 17 lakhs of central exchequer, which was the expected expenditure it would have incurred in supplying hard copies of the documents.
The Special Sessions Judge Shibu Thomas passed the Order in a case filed by the ED against 55 persons accused of various offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), and the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC).
The ED, in its application under Section 207 Cr.P.C., averred that it would be impossible to furnish 55 hard copies of documents (RUD) having 26,000 pages. They thus prayed for permitting the supply of copies in electronic format, ie, in pen drives, or in the alternative, to inspect the documents either personally or through the counsel.
Special Public Prosecutor for ED M.J. Santhosh further submitted that the documents were not equally for each accused, and that furnishig hard copies to each of the accused would require thirteen lakh sheets of paper, which in turn, would mean the felling of hundreds of trees.
The Court, relying on the Apex decisions in Gopalakrishnan P @ Dileep v. State of Kerala & Anr (2019), and CBI v. Abhishek Sachan @ Abhishek Singh (2023), found that the accused persons were entitled to copies of documents releid upon by the complainant as evidence against them.
However, on taking note of the voluminous nature of the evidence submitted by the ED, the Court went on to state,
"...prosecution has furnished 55 soft copies of documents, including statement of accused and witnesses in pen drive, along with 55 hard copies of complaint. The pen drive is more efficient and economical when compared to paper copies of these documents. The paper copies would consume large amounts of paper, ink, and other resources, and they would also pose a challenge for storage and examination. The pen drive, on the other hand, would be easy to store and examine. The pen drive would also be more clear and accurate than the paoer copies of docuemnts as it would original quality and resolution. The pen drive is also more eco-friendly than hard copies of the documents. The hard copies would entail cutting down of hundreds of trees, which would harm the environment and ecology. The pen drive would not prejudice the rights and interest of accused as the prosecution would take all necessary step to ensure authenticity and integrity of the pen drive. Furthermore, it is important to note that we are transitioning to paperless Court".
It thus permitted the ED to supply the documents in the electronic format with the following conditions:
i. That the pen drive ought to be of good quality, and capacity, and not have any defects, damages or virus that could affect the documents;
ii. That the pen drive ought to be sealed in a tamper proof envelope, and would affix a unique identification number or code;
iii. That the pen drive ought to be accompanied by a digital signature or certificate of authenticity, to verify the source and integrity of the documents;
iv. That the pen drive ought not to be deleted or modified without permission; and
v. That the pen drive should also provide the accused with necessary devices and software to access the pen drive, if required.
The various accused persons were represented by Advocates Isac Sanjay, Sujesh Menon, T. Anil Kumar, Ressil Lonan, K. Viswan, R. Sudhish, and M. Manju.
Case Title: Directorate of Enforcement v. Bijoy A.K. & Ors.
Case Number: Crl. M.P. No. 1140/ 2023