While having a discussion on 'Justice In Pandemic', organised by one of the leading policy think tanks Agami, various experts from the legal fraternity noted that embracing technology requires a change in the mindset of judges.
Former Supreme Court judge Justice Madan B Lokur highlighted that there's no dearth of technological options. It is important for the judiciary, Justice Lokur said, for the judiciary to be more proactive in embracing technology.
Justice Lokur also highlighted that while projects such as e-courts and e-pay have brought about accountability, judges must show keen interest in implementing them.
'Many High Courts showed reluctance in digitising the records when ₹700 crores was allocated for the same by the 14th Finance Commission. Such reluctance was mostly stemming from an ego issue', Justice Lokur remarked.
The observation was first highlighted by Justice BN Srikrishna expressed uncertainty with regards to the number of judges who will be comfortable in embracing technology.
'I'm not even sure how many judges will be comfortable in using a software or a hardware which is not developed by a government agency - It's more of a mindset issue', Justice Srikrishna said.
Justice Srikrishna further went on to say that technological changes should be a permanent feature and should not just be restricted to the lockdown period.
Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan added to the issue by talking about how technology should be used for enhancing time management of the courts. He said that technology should help in reducing paperwork and must lead to a time bound resolution.
Talking about the mindset problem, Mr Vaidyanathan remarked:
'While 80% of the judges will be prepared to experiment with the new system, most lawyers will be against it as they'll have an apprehension of losing their jobs.'
Mr Vaidyanathan continued to voice his support for use of technology by saying that to further the ideal of transparency, live broadcasting of public interest cases should be allowed.
Echoing the sentiment voiced by Justice Lokur, Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya said that we don't have dearth of technology, the courts should only be concerned about security protocol.
Mr Poovayya also emphasised upon the importance of having uniform protocol for digitising and maintaining digitised records.
'It's a mindset issue that we don't want to use a third party software, we just need a solid licensing mechanism', Mr Poovayya said.
Evaluating the existing systems, Advocate Gopal Sankarnarayanan highlighted that there are many issues with the Vidyo app which leads to unnecessary wastage of court's time.
While giving example of UK courts using Skype Business for conducting certain proceedings, Mr Sankarnarayanan said that any technological set up should include live streaming of proceedings and transcripting of records.
Talking about the solutions and possible challenges, Agami's Supriya Sankaran addressed the issues of access to technology. She said that courts must see as to how they can enable choice, dignity and agency in this process.
Ms Sankaran also pointed out that embracing technology should not just be a reactionary measure taken during an emergency, but it should reflect long term structural changes.
Furthering the discussion on this issue, both Justice Srikrishna and Mr Poovayya noted that the government has to look into the bandwidth issue to ensure there are no call drops or image freezing during video conferencing.
Talking about concerns Justice Lokur remarked that the system of deciding as to what qualifies as an 'urgent matter' may lead to resurgence of pretty petty corruption.