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Kerala High Court Bar Expresses Concerns About E-Filing Rules; KHCAA Resolves To Abstain From E-Filing

Lydia Suzanne Thomas
17 May 2021 6:00 AM GMT
Kerala High Court Bar Expresses Concerns About E-Filing Rules; KHCAA Resolves To Abstain From E-Filing
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Following the Kerala High Court's decision to implement e-filing upon the Court's reopening on Monday, May 17, advocate organisations of the Kerala High Court have raised concerns about the processes set in place. In a letter, Kerala High Court Advocates' Association dated May 12, the Association President Advocate Thomas Abraham has recommended reverting to the email filing...

Following the Kerala High Court's decision to implement e-filing upon the Court's reopening on Monday, May 17, advocate organisations of the Kerala High Court have raised concerns about the processes set in place.

In a letter, Kerala High Court Advocates' Association dated May 12, the Association President Advocate Thomas Abraham has recommended reverting to the email filing system followed in the initial stages of the Covid lockdown imposed last year.

Over the weekend, the Association convened an extraordinary general body meeting to discuss the new e-filing rules. After the meeting on Saturday, the Association decided to protest the implementation of the e-filing rules. The General Body also resolved to abstain from all proceedings conducted by the High Court in connection with e-filing.  

The Association again met on Sunday, deciding not to file any case under the E-filing system introduced under the Rules. It was also unanimously resolved that members would not associate in any manner with activities concerned with the implementation of the e-filing Rule notified.

An additional meeting is to be held on May 17 to consider the approach of the High Court Administrative Committee to the President's Letter dated May 12. 

The All India Lawyers' Union, in a representation signed by its Secretary, Advocate CE Unnikrishnan has expressed that the implementation of the rules without providing necessary infrastructure facilities to the lawyers and without sufficient training, will not serve the purpose for which the same is proposed to be introduced. The Union has averred that out of its 7000 members, only 1500 Advocates have been able to get themselves registered so far. Pointing out that registering before the date would be impossible, it is stated that such lawyers would be ineligible to file a case through the e-filing system.

In its representation, the Union has also said that many members of the fraternity and law clerks would require preliminary training in e-filing, since the process was technical.

The Indian Lawyers' Congress in its representation signed by President Advocate T Asaf Ali highlights that the many advocates and their staff were stranded in their villages due to Covid and monsoon, and not acquainted with the e-filing system. It is also stated that some of the provisions of the Rules are vague and ambiguous, which would require clarifications. 

A representation moved by the Bharateeya Abhibhashaka Parishad through President Advocate Vilakkudy S Rajendran and General Secretary B Ashok has also echoed this sentiment, saying that many lawyers do not have the infrastructure such as scanners, broadband connectivity that require financial investments amid the pandemic.

"The whole of the legal fraternity is facing untold miseries and financial problems as the regular working of the Courts are stalled for the last one and a half years due to the pandemic," the Parishad states in its letter. Additionally, many lawyers do not have the requisite infrastructure to obtain the Electronic Signatures/Digital Signatures required for the E-filing.

All the organisations, including the Kerala High Court Advocates Association has sought a deferral of the coming into force of the rules, and has sought consultations with all stakeholders.

The Kerala High Court last week notified its Electronic Filing Rules For Courts (Kerala), 2021 (Rules) for Courts across the state.

The new rules prescribe e-filing for all cases in courts in Kerala. A person who is unable to access the e-filing portal is required to visit a 'designated counter', paying required fees. Files having a size greater than 10 MB will have to be filed at a designated counter.

The Rules provide that online electronic filing shall be done for the High Court at the High Court website or a portal assigned specifically for electronic filing by the Chief Justice. Online electronic filing shall be made either at the website of the Subordinate Courts or Tribunals or at the web portal created specifically for filing in the particular courts, it is stated. The Court is permitted to allow regular filing if all other methods fail.

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