A man is on trial for murdering his wife, although a body has not been found.
His lawyer says there is not enough evidence. "The ex-wife is not even dead, I am going to prove it to you, she is going to walk through the door in about one minute."
All eyes are focused on the door. A minute passes. Another minute passes. And another.
The prosecution says: "she didn't walk in."
"But the fact that you were all staring at the door expectantly proves that there is reasonable doubt."
The jury discusses. The defendant is found guilty.
"How can you send a man to prison on such flimsy evidence?" The lawyer says.
One juror says: "In the three minutes that passed, I looked through the courtroom, and I saw that the defendant was the only person who didn't look at the door even once.
Such and infinite such amusing instances, which are no less than parable, lighten up the court proceeding. They make court rooms live due to the fact that law is said to be dealing with lives and not just facts or papers. To have human approach, wear humility in court rooms and give patient hearing are often tipped as virtues of seasoned judges. To be articulate, witty and have acute presence of mind as tips for young advocates.
Judges and lawyers often face each other in court rooms with charged environment. Judge's long pause or glance being sufficient to convey displeasure and the lawyer's innuendos, while telling how different that judge is from others do not go unnoticed by anyone who is present in the court room.
Who as judge or as a lawyer has not seen some lawyers being too smart to taken on Bench and opponents with exhibit of some unusual mode of pressing an argument or asking parties to be ready to stage some sort of melodrama in the court rooms.
Young lawyers are seen following the flamboyant senior counsels in court rooms and as the ones who they want to be some day. Their expensive pen and designer cuff-links even drawing attention of judges when these charismatic advocates argue in court rooms, full of showmanship.
Judges displaying their own methodology in hearing and running "their" courts in their style. Advocates having argued a case well in open court often feel invisible pat on their back at same time judges can be seen sharing their experience with colleagues about handling a "teaching" an advocate in the "open court". Then the staff members nawabi mannerism in courtrooms while attending their presiding officer as some Avtar are all so intricate to the open court hearing.
This all makes proceeding in courtrooms live to life. Human behaviour and demeanour exhibited by every functionary of court room has some influence on the cause. Every cause before the court springs a spectacular for the judges.
Now when there is a talk of court hearing going online a study is needed to know how these virtual courts will continue to be yours truly court rooms. Not intending to go into the cumbersome SOPs of virtual court hearing, lack of infrastructure or training of all stake holders what makes us curious is how it will have bearing on mental and physical health of the judges or even advocates. There seems to be no study or discussion as to how working over computers and conducting hearing on line for hours and days in routine will effect the productivity of judges. How it is likely to bring challenges of some new occupational hazards upon the judges.
Already judges are prone to certain ailments due to nature of duty requiring continuous sitting in court rooms and camp offices. Automation and use of technology is expected to increase productivity but not at the cost of mental or physical hazards to users. If judges are expected to be conducting proceedings exclusively in online mode it will have catastrophic effect on their health. They will not carry the warmth of humanity while hearing lis before them. They may end up being cold and dry something which will be unfortunate for litigants too.
Litigants seeing their judges in court rooms in person feel a sense of divinity attached to the proceedings. Litigants are already distanced from dais with interference of counsels and in virtual hearing they may feel as if their distance with dais has increased further.
A meeting conducted in any other private or Government enterprise is different hearing in court rooms. Meetings have an agenda or something for which participants are ready. In litigation hearing by experience any lawyer or judge will admit that things of all sorts crop up which require immediate interference. Admissibility or recording of evidences and their reading in arguments see continuous objections and cross objections. So uninterrupted conversation is the only way to settle the issue and by no means any extent of Internet services or interface can give that opportunity to court and counsels. So howsoever successful online meetings may be in other sectors in court proceedings they will fail to advance the cause of justice.
There should therefore be an attempt to have brainstorming on much needed reforms in procedural laws so that unwarranted proceedings can be curtailed dispensing personal presence parties or counsels. Laws and procedures be so crafted that everything in a lis can be done online except hearing arguments.
Open court hearing are testimony to fairness in proceedings is something which has kept the reputation and integrity of judicial institutions intact. Any hit and try attempt to run hearing online may hurt the reputation of institution as a whole and courts may no more remain virtually for ever the same as ought to be.
Views Are Personal Only.
(Author is ADJ Faridabad and President Haryana Judges Association)