Amongst the Indian Courts, the High Court of Delhi has always been in the forefront of technological advancements. During the current pandemic it came out with 'High Court of Delhi Rules for Video Conferencing for Courts 2020' which consolidate, unify, and streamline the procedure relating to Video Conferencing for Courts it. These rules apply qua the Delhi High Court and courts and tribunals over which it has jurisdiction.
Under the rules all proceedings conducted by a court via video conferencing shall be judicial proceedings and all the courtesies and protocols applicable to a physical Court shall apply to these virtual proceedings.
A welcome step, under Rule 16, is that persons not parties to the case can also view the proceedings subject to bandwidth restrictions and the Courts orders. Pursuant to these rules, there is a circular uploaded today (June 20, 2020) which, in keeping with requirement of open Court proceeding provides for public to view the Court proceedings. It states that the High Court shall endeavour to make available sufficient links (consistent with available bandwidth) for accessing the proceedings. Under the video conferencing rules, unauthorised recording of the proceedings by any person or entity shall not be allowed. The circular states that those who are given a link for viewing the court proceedings will ensure that their mic is kept on mute mode and the video on switch-off mode. Further it records that no request will be entertained once the hearing has commenced except with the permission of the court.
Under Rule 6.1 hearings can be done via video conferencing, at any stage and even cross-examinations are possible through video conferencing. Physical trial has been embedded in the Indian Judicial system since time immemorial and therefore to make the same possible virtually through video conferencing is arguably the best use of technological advancements. In some scenarios this step can even lead to shortening of the time taken to conclude trials and thereby ultimately culminating in speedier justice delivery.
Rule 8.15 of the Video Conferencing Rules 2020 allows usage of portable video conferencing systems in certain conditions. Rule 12.2 envisages that ideally designated software for video conferencing will be used but in case there is a technical glitch some other software can be permitted only for that particular proceeding. This certainly takes care of those scenarios when the designated software due to overload or any other reason suffers technical glitches and further also those scenarios, when a witness to be examined is unable to come to a specified remote point and could rather access it through a portable video conferencing system.
Additionally, the Online e-Filing System of Delhi High Court was also e-inaugurated on June 13, 2020 and enables filing of fresh matters as well as other filing in pending matters from any place.
The approach of the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi in leaping forward with these rules, has been a pro-active step in the right direction especially in trying times such as these. The Courts in India, especially the High Court of Delhi, have moved at a pace not seen before in trying to re-open the Courts and re-open access to justice in wake of the pandemic especially when the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down.
The article is authored by Ms. Meghna Mishra – Partner, & Mr. Tarun Sharma – Associate at Karanjawala & Co.