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Justice Chandrachud, Chairperson Of SC E-Committee, Confers With HC Judges On Video-Conferencing & Web Hosting Of Proceedings

4 April 2020 4:24 AM GMT
Justice Chandrachud, Chairperson Of SC E-Committee, Confers With HC Judges On Video-Conferencing & Web Hosting Of Proceedings
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In its endeavour to ensure that urgent matters are heard promptly during the period of the lockdown occasioned by the outbreak of Covid - 19 and that parties are not required to come to court for other cases listed for hearing, the E-Committee of the Supreme Court assembled through video conferencing in the morning.

The Chairperson, Dr. Justice Chandrachud, reviewed the measures which have been initiated by the High Courts in their respective jurisdictions. After noting the difficulties faced by some states in e-filing, in the operation of virtual courts and in the course of hearing cases through video conferencing, the Chairperson proposed that a meeting of the Chairpersons of the Computer committees of the High Courts be organised at 4 pm. Shri. Ramesh Babu, member of the E-committee contacted all Chief Project Coordinators of the Computerisation projects in the High Courts to ensure that all the Chairpersons were provided with information on the tentative agenda of the meeting.

After incorporating suggestions from the High Courts, the following agenda for the meeting was drawn up:

1. Ensuring that the lockdown does not affect hearing of urgent matters in all courts across the country by:

  • a. Enabling e-filing, consistent with Section 6 of the Information Technology Act
  • b. Considering the feasibility of hearing urgent matters by video conferencing.
  • c. Providing facilities in a facilitation centre for e-filing and video conferencing as far as possible in buildings situated at the entrance of court complexes, ensuring that the facilities are regularly sterilised,
  • d. If such buildings are not available, considering installing porta-cabins at entrances,
  • e. Providing facilities for e-filing, scanning and uploading as far as possible free of cost in urgent matters during the lockdown period.
  • f. Providing at least two cubicles for video conferencing, with desktops, cameras etc. , subject to need and availability of funds,
  • g. Authority to use unspent funds from phase II of E-courts project for this purpose, subject to observing financial norms, and obtaining ex-post facto approval of the E-committee/ Department Of Justice,
  • g. Encouraging advocates, Judges of the High Courts and judicial officers to take up hearings from their homes/ residential offices,
  • h. Encouraging all High Courts to take their own decisions to utilise the available options for video conferencing.

2. Observance of the requirement of courts conducting open hearings via video conferencing.

3. Use of the latest software patch for automatic posting of cases in CIS 3.2.

4. Implementation of Virtual Courts:

Apart from virtual courts for e-challans under the Motor Vehicles Act, High Courts may consider use of virtual courts for other summary cases. Any difficulties faced may be brought to the notice of the e-committee, which will enhance the software.

5. Use of lock down time for pending house-keeping activities like migration to CIS 3.2 wherever it is not done so far.

6. Any other item with the permission of the Chair.

The Chairpersons of the Computer Committees of the High Courts conducted a review of the situation in their states and participated in the meeting chaired by Dr Justice Chandrachud.

The following Chairpersons participated in the meeting:

  1. Telangana HC : Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, The Chief Justice
  2. Patna HC : Justice Sanjay Karol, The Chief Justice
  3. Allahabad HC : Justice Anjani Kumar Mishra
  4. Bombay HC :  Justice N. M. Jamdar
  5. Calcutta HC :  Justice Sanjib Banerjee
  6. Chhattisgarh HC : Justice Manindra Mohan Shrivastava
  7. Delhi HC : Justice Rajiv Shakdher
  8. Gujarat HC :  Justice Bela M Trivedi
  9. Himachal Pradesh HC :  Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan
  10. Jharkhand HC : Justice Harish Chandra Mishra
  11. Jammu & Kashmir HC :  Justice Rajesh Bindal
  12. Karnataka HC :  Justice Aravind Kumar
  13. Kerala HC : Justice A. Muhamad Mustaque
  14. Madras HC : Justice T S Sivagnanam
  15. Meghalaya HC : Justice Hamarsan Singh Thangkhiew
  16. Manipur HC : Justice Kh. Nobin Singh
  17. Madhya Pradesh HC : Justice Satish Chandra Sharma
  18. Orissa HC : Justice Biswajit Mohanty
  19. Punjab & Haryana HC : Justice Ajay Tewari
  20. Rajasthan HC : Justice Arun Bhansali
  21. Sikkim HC :  Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan
  22. Tripura HC : Justice S. Talapatra
  23. Uttarakhand HC : Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari

 The Chairpersons shared with the participants the steps taken and the challenges faced in their states. The Chairpersons agreed with the suggestion of Dr Justice Chandrachud, that while taking prompt measures at this time of crisis , the use of technology must be institutionalised even after the lockdown is lifted and normalcy returns. It was agreed that E-filing in such modes as may be practicable may be used during the period of lock down.

Dr Justice Chandrachud also informed the participants about an e-filing module which is in an advanced stage of development in the Supreme Court. An e-filing module has been developed for trial courts

Justice Chandrachud also suggested that the High Courts may share the utilities which have been developed in their courts for being deployed wherever they are found to be useful. Full use of facilitation centres wherever available, or creating facilitation centres with facilities for e-filing and video conferencing at the entrances of court complexes in porta cabins was suggested. Equipment required or manpower could for the time being be deployed from the existing strength since all courts in a complex are unlikely to be functioning during the lockdown.

The Chairperson also highlighted that a software patch has been developed for automatic posting of dates of hearing ofcases in CIS 3.2, with a facility of bulk adjournment of cases during the lockdown and for sending SMSs to litigants and lawyers about the next dates. This may be immediately deployed to obviate visits by litgants and lawyers to the courts during this period.

 While ideally, judicial officers and advocates should work from their homes, it was left to the high courts to decide to what extent this was feasible. The question of live streaming of proceedings held by video conferencing was also discussed. Based on an assessment of technical issues like availability of sufficient bandwidth and facilities of hosting the proceedings on dedicated servers, it was felt that the recordings should be hosted on court web-sites by the next day. This will ensure that people have access to court proceedings.

It was noticed that virtual courts were functioning only in a few states though software has been provided to all states by the NIC team at Pune. The urgent need to start virtual courts, not only for traffic challans but also for promptly dealing with summary violations was emphasized.

Dr Justice Chandrachud suggested that that the High Courts may use the unutilised funds from Phase II of the E-courts project for meeting immediate needs while observing financial norms. He assured that demands for funds or software will be promptly processed by the E-committee and submitted to the Department of Justice.

Dr. Justice Chandrachud placed on record his appreciation of the efforts undertaken by officials of all courts under the guidance of the Chairpersons of the Computer committees of the High Courts. Chairpersons agreed that they would promptly start working on the lines decided.

The meeting concluded with a vote of thanks by the Justice R C Chavan, Vice - Chairperson of the E committee.

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