A letter-petition has been sent to the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, seeking for directions to issue a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the HC as well as the Subordinate Courts with respect to matters concerning issues which revolve around the process of e-filing.
The Representation/PIL, sent by Advocate Syed Mohammad Haider, states that the process of e-hearing of urgent petitions, though intended to provide respite to litigants who had been prejudiced by State action or any other cogent reason, is currently unable to "cater to the requirement of the lawyers as well as the litigants for many reasons which need the kind consideration of the Court". As the possibility of returning to the conventional system of filing and hearing of cases seems distant, at least for the coming few months, the PIL contends that an SOP must be devised to clarify and simplify the process of e-filing and e-hearing. The PIL raises the following questions/suggestions and seeks the indulgence of the Allahabad High Court to issue directions on the same: "1. How does a lawyer, who has filed a petition online, in terms of the guidelines circulated, be confident that his petition has actually been received at the given mail id? Why can't there be an automated reply from the very same id that the mail with attachment has been received? 2. Who operates the mail ID of the HC filing? Is it the joint registrar listing /any other judicial officer or Clerk? The details, contact numbers and mail IDs of all such authorities be made available on the Website of the High Court. 3. How is it ensured that the clerk dealing with e-filing does not delete a particular lawyer's mail? What is the mechanism to ensure that this does not happen? 4. What is the standard SOP for the e-filing of petitions in High Court and what shall be the process for the Subordinate Courts which account for the majority of litigation? 5. What is the capacity of the High Court's mailbox for e-filing? Is it secured ? And what does one do when the mailbox becomes full and the mail bounces? Who is authorized to delete the mails and at what frequency? Is there a way to archive the mails ? 6. At what frequency is the matter placed before the Senior Judge/Bench? Is it immediately at the time of filing the petition or at some fixed intervals? Who is authorized to take a call on this and decide whether the matter is to be placed before the Hon'ble Court immediately/ Later on or not to be placed? 7. Why can't there be a similar process of hearing for lower courts where thousands are still languishing without hearing, even for petty offences? Why can't there be an e-hearing there as well? The Lower Courts need to have a separate room, preferably in the Bar where the computers with a proper internet connection with proper bandwidth and camera and sound system be put in place, well sanitized, where the Lawyers who do not have the personal computers/ android systems be facilitated to appear and argue their matters before the designated courts for the purpose, after following the Covid-19 Protocols. 8. In order to ensure transparency and accountability, the High Court must publish a daily dashboard of petitions received on its website and share the details of defects (if any) so that the lawyers and litigants can at-least know that their matters are filed, cure the defects and proceed with the matter. 9. I would also strongly recommend that the Hon'ble High Court must appoint amicus for all the District Courts amongst those lawyers who are aware of the use of computer applications and e-process, who could volunteer to visit and educate their fellow lawyers into the nuances and process for use of technology into litigation. This may involve visit, creation of mail IDs of Lawyers and educating them adapt to the changing circumstances, which is going to be the way ahead for this noble profession which impacts the Society at large." The PIL ends on the note of seeking the attention of the High Court and for the passing of necessary instructions in the larger interest of the citizenry of the State.
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