Large Watermarks On Tribunal Orders Make Them Unreadable; Impact Access To Justice : Justice Chandrachud

Mehal Jain

13 Aug 2021 6:48 AM GMT

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  • Large Watermarks On Tribunal Orders Make Them Unreadable; Impact Access To Justice : Justice Chandrachud

    Supreme Court judge Justice D. Y. Chandrachud on Friday orally remarked that the E-Committee of the Supreme Court will contact the tribunals to request them to remove large watermarks from the pages of their judgments/orders.The bench of Justices Chandrachud and M. R. Shah was hearing a batch of appeals against a decision of the NGT on a perusal of the orders/judgments of which the...

    Supreme Court judge Justice D. Y. Chandrachud on Friday orally remarked that the E-Committee of the Supreme Court will contact the tribunals to request them to remove large watermarks from the pages of their judgments/orders.

    The bench of Justices Chandrachud and M. R. Shah was hearing a batch of appeals against a decision of the NGT on a perusal of the orders/judgments of which the aforesaid observation came.

    "Tribunals don't come under us, but we will deal with this issue in the E-Committee. We have previously taken up this concern with the High Courts also. We will get in touch with the NGT. It is very bad, their orders just cannot be read", said the judge, who is the Chairman of the E-Committee of the Supreme Court.

    Justice Chandrachud continued to note that watermarks imposed on pages of judgments/orders make them unreadable, and more so to the visually-challenged-

    "One of my law clerks last year, who was a Rhodes scholar was visually challenged and he could not read the orders at all because due to the watermarks, the orders are not machine-readable. It impacts the access to justice of the disabled"

    "A large logo on every page makes it very difficult to read otherwise also. It is not comfortable to read for even me", said the judge.

    In March as well, Justice Chandrachud had expressed that High Courts and tribunals must abstain from placing watermarks on their orders and judgments as it significantly hampers easy access to the document.

    "You don't need water marks to show authenticity. In today's date, the judgments can be digitally signed", said Justice Chandrachud.

    This remark came in the course of the hearing of a matter when the bench of Justices Chandrachud and MR Shah was perusing a decision of the NGT, which follows the practice of watermarking its orders.

    "It is very difficult to read water-marked orders. Especially on Mondays and Fridays, when we are going through 40 to 45 SLPs! Navigating through watermarks is a nightmare!", remarked Justice Chandrachud.

    Senior advocate V Giri, who was appearing in the matter, also pointed out that a lot of High Courts also tend to use watermarks on their orders – "And the Madras and Telangana High Courts put it right in the middle of the page", he commented.

    "Yes, I know. This is the next project that we will take up in the Supreme Court E-Committee. You don't need watermarks to show authenticity of the decision. In today's date, the document can be digitally signed. I will write to all the…", said Justice Chandrachud, who is the Chairman of the Supreme Court E-Committee.

    "And some of them even use very small font", added Justice Shah.

    "There is a particular member of the NCDRC, when I see his name, I get worried. His orders use a very tight, number 7 or 8 font, running across a 7-10 page judgment ", Justice Shah continued.

    Another senior advocate suggested the standardisation of the format for judgements and orders across High Court and tribunals. Justice Chandrachud replied that the said task is in progress.

    Urging all courts to endeavour to create an active environment for disabled lawyers, Justice Chandrachud had in December last year, inter alia, suggested that stamps and watermarks should be placed on pages in such a manner that they don't hamper smooth access to the documents and that the practice of using watermarks on each page of judgements and orders should be done away with.

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