Last year in April when the first wave of COVID-19 struck India and a lockdown was imposed across the country, the Supreme Court started experimenting with live webcasting and e-filing software to obviate the need to travel to court to file cases.
Since then the Supreme Court has heard the highest number of cases through video conferencing in the world. “Over 18,000 courts have been computerised during the lockdown,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he spoke at the commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of the Gujarat High Court on Saturday (February 6).
“Our high courts and district courts have also carried out a large number of e-proceedings during COVID,” said the PM.
The Prime Minister congratulated the Gujarat High Court for “always working towards securing truth and justice in the country”.
During the lockdown, Modi said the Gujarat HC provided justice through video conferencing and live streaming, proving that “our judicial system is efficient and effective”. He also said the state was the first to start an evening court.
The year-end review of the Department of Justice under the Ministry of Law and Justice says video conferencing equipment was provided to all court complexes, including taluk level courts; and funds sanctioned for additional VC equipment for 14,443 courtrooms.
It said nine virtual courts have been set up. “These courts handled 35,02,896 cases and realised ₹130.72 crore in fines as on Dec 8, 2020,” it said, adding the COVID-19 software patch has been developed to help in smart scheduling of cases according to urgency.
“Through tele-law free legal advice service is now available in 285 districts to marginal sections,” the review noted.
“Our judiciary has always interpreted the Constitution positively and creatively to strengthen it further. Be it safeguarding the rights of people of the country or when any situation arose where national interest needed to be prioritised, the judiciary has always performed its duty,” Modi said addressing the event through video conference.
“Rule of law in Indian society has been the basis of civilization for centuries. Our ancient texts say the root of good governance lies in providing justice. Bar and judiciary should work towards building the world-class Judicious System in the country,” he said.
In an effort to make virtual courts stronger, Modi said India’s digital mission is making e-courts grow at a fast pace.