Virtual courts to continue even after pandemic for ‘faster’ justice delivery

Parliamentary panel says this will also be cheaper and ensure protection for witnesses

Supreme Court

Online court proceedings, a concept made necessary by the need to have social distancing due to the COVID pandemic, may continue even when things return to normal as they are a “cheaper and faster” means of delivering justice.

The virtual courts should continue even after the pandemic gets over as a court is more a service than a place, a parliamentary panel has recommended, reported the Hindustan Times.

Digital justice is “cheaper and faster” and it removes hurdles caused by location  and economic considerations, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice said in an interim report submitted to Rajya Sabha chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday.

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This will also make vulnerable witnesses feel safe while giving testimony and it will also expedite processes and procedures, said the committee led by Bharatiya Janata Party lead and member of the Rajya Sabha Bhupender Yadav.

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The panel has administrative matters can be dealt with by permanent virtual courts during time of final hearings as this will reduce costs and ensure faster disposal of cases.

According to the committee, virtual courts score over traditional ones because “they are most affordable, citizen friendly and offer greater access to justice,” Hindustan Times reported.

Many court cases are being heard online since the outbreak of COVID, as the pandemic makes social distancing important to contain its spread.

Many bar councils are, however, not in favour of online proceedings as the feel many places do not have the necessary infrastructure to support such hearings. They feel physical appearance in courts allows lawyers to make fast adjustments to fast-changing scenarios in court hearings.

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The told the panel that a majority of the advocates, mostly from district and lower levels, do not own laptops or computers to be able to attend virtual hearings, the Hindustan Times reported.

The committee also recommended E-Sewa Kendras at all court complexes, speedy execution of the National Broadband Mission to support virtual courts and computer courses for law students.

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