Supreme Court Judge and Chairperson of the top Court's E-Committee, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud on Saturday inaugurated the District Level Awareness Programme in Regional Languages on E-court services and E-filings along with manuals and tutorials for advocates to gain knowledge about the services available to them.
Speaking at an event conducted online, Justice Chandrachud threw light on the vision of the E-Committee to ensure technology reaches each corner of the country and lawyers in the remotest districts could benefit from it.
It was informed that this training programme for lawyers is part of a 2-pronged approach which the E-Committee has adopted. On one hand, the focus is on creating facilities through which litigants & advocates can access e-governance facilities, while on the other hand, members of the Bar need to be trained to make the most of these facilities.
"Merely providing facilities won't work unless the members of the Bar are duly trained to use the facilities", stated Justice Chandrachud.
J DYC- Now we don't want these lawyers to remain where they are. We have moved from the age of old forms of transportation into new forms, & our young lawyers must be part of this movement.— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) July 25, 2020
Highlighting a number of initiatives taken by the Committee in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the realm of the Judiciary, Justice Chandrachud stressed on the need for these developments to permeate to each advocate, in each district.
"This 2 pronged programme is based on the knowledge that there's a technological divide in India. Those working in metropolitan cities have access to the best technology. But credibility & spine or backbone of judicial administration in the country is provided by advocates who work in district levels. The first interface of the citizen with injustice or their attempt to remedy injustice is when they contact a lawyer at the district level. Unless we carry every member of the Bar with us on this mission we can never succeed.
This project is an attempt to spread knowledge of ICT initiatives to members of the Bar. So our target is to attain 100% computer literacy for members of the Indian Bar."
He further emphasized that the project was an initiative which could only succeed if members of the Bar not only embrace it, but take pride in it. Towards this end, it was informed, a training programme has been launched through which some "master trainers" have been trained intensively by the Committee, who have, in turn, trained a wider pool of trainers, to further impart training to lawyers in small districts. "The idea is to start a programme of creating trainers amongst advocates themselves", added the Judge.
Justice Chandrachud further asserted that it was the responsibility of the Court to create facilities for members of the Bar. Averring to lawyers who have come from very rural upbringings and have managed to migrate to the legal profession instead of being engaged in manual labour or agriculture, Justice Chandrachud urged that it was imperative to ensure that they do not remain stagnated. Therefore, he reiterated, facilities need to be in place for young lawyers to thrive, and the 2-pronged approach was an attempt in that direction.
"It's a great achievement for that person to have passed law school and come to court. Now we don't want these lawyers to remain where they are. We have moved from the age of old forms of transportation into new forms & our young lawyers must be part of this movement.
…We cannot expect that a young lawyer will have a laptop. Where does a young lawyer spend ₹40,000 to buy a laptop from? Surely in that case, we must provide an E-governance centre, where they can go avail these services. If anyone of them hasn't gone to the best educational institutions, the Court should be the centre point for providing education, so they can easily learn."
This awareness programme is the first step towards achieving the aforementioned goal of the E-Committee, added Chandrachud J. The next step is to collect & prepare a list of all advocates throughout India, to communicate to them the services that are available, while the third phase is to train shortlisted advocates intensively by the E-Committee, to become master trainers among the advocates.
"This 3-phased programme has been envisaged & we plan to complete it in the next few months with the help of all Bar Councils & District Bar Associations", he informed.
J DYC- we are now looking to extend this to all courts in the country. We have the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG), which has 12.34 crore orders of pending & disposed of cases. We have these kind of stats, but we are not satisfied with this. This is only the tip of the iceberg— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) July 25, 2020
Speaking extensively on the issue of resumption of open Court hearings, Justice Chandrachud explained that the Committee of 7 Supreme Court Judges were looking in to the issue with due consideration of all aspects. He went on to state that the Committee has been drawing from opinions of eminent public health experts, and taking necessary steps consistent with the advice so received.
Referring to the High Power meeting that took place on Friday, the Judge also said that the Committee had indicated that the move to resume open Court hearings would be "increasingly come to" when the curve flattens out.
"The reason why we had to resort to virtual court hearings during the pandemic was because otherwise justice would have been shut down. We had absolutely no option when the country was in lockdown to prevent the spread of infection."
Justice Chandrachud went on to explain that while access to justice was extremely important, protecting each other from the spread of the pandemic was a major concern. In this light, he said-
"In a way the Court is very different from any other office, either of the corporate India or of the Government. These (Courts) are places where 1000s & 1000s of people congregate every day. There are different stakeholders, including members of the Bar, litigants, staff and lawyers who come in multitudes.
We have to ensure that while access to justice is open for all, at the same time we protect each other against the spread of this pandemic. So we are all in it together. I don't believe that judges or any segment of our profession stands away from the other.
What affects one part of our profession affects the other equally. We can't exist without the other. You cannot imagine a judicial institution without the Bar anymore than you can imagine the judicial institution without the judges. And we cannot imagine this institution without the Court staff."
Moving on, the Chairperson of the Supreme Court E-Committee took note of the problems being faced by advocates regarding e-filings. Acknowledging the same, he called for cooperation from advocates in joining hands to understand the issues and together trying to find solutions.
"We want all members to work with us, see the facilities which are available & to communicate your problems to us", urged Chandrachud J. while assuring that whenever a problem is communicated, it is immediately conveyed to the National Informatics Centre in Pune, who usually rectify the same within 24-48 hours.
Justice Chandrachud also touched upon the issue of live streaming Court proceedings, and informed that model rules for the same are being framed. "We've already framed model rules on video conferencing, on e-filing. A High power Committee has been constituted to frame a Standard Operating Procedure on digitization."
In conclusion, Chandrachud J emphasized on how the launch of the programme was an important step in spearheading knowledge of e-Court facilities & to make people aware of the range of free facilities available to them.
"Want the junior most member of the Bar & the senior most member to seize this opportunity", he urged.