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Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. (HT)
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. (HT)

Digitization of judicial process gets big push amid pandemic, says govt

  • Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad says the e-filing process in the Supreme Court has made it easy to file cases
  • During the lockdown period, 640 advocates on record have registered for e-filing cases in the top court

NEW DELHI : The Supreme Court (SC) has made filing cases online simple and affordable amid restrictions over maintain social distancing. According to the SC registry, 640 cases were registered online between 22 March and 8 July.

“The e-filing process in the Supreme Court has made it easy to file cases. During the lockdown period, 640 advocates on record have registered for e-filing cases in (the) Supreme Court. This is a move towards digitization of the judicial process," said law and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

While the covid-19 outbreak and the subsequent nationwide lockdown prompted the apex court to adopt e-filing of cases for urgent petitions, it is now slowly opening it for regular matters. In May, the court had allowed e-filing of petitions by advocates on record (AoR), amid the lockdown.

An AoR is an advocate who has cleared a qualifying examination and is allowed to file petitions in the SC. Besides, the apex court on 10 July held that summons and notices will be allowed to be served through the digital medium, including email, fax and instant messaging mobile applications. The decision was taken in view of the difficulties to visit a post office due to limited mobility.

“A 24x7 e-filing facility, incorporation of online court fee payment, use of digital signature and digitalized scrutiny mechanism for defects and objections in the petitions are some of the key features envisaged through the introduction of e-filing," said justice D.Y. Chandrachud, the chairperson of the e-committee.

In May, the chief justice of India S.A. Bobde had said that while the transition to digitization was not easy, it was here to stay, as it was the only way forward for judicial bodies across the country.

Digitization was taken up in other courts, too. Delhi high court, for instance, introduced the e-filing of cases even before the outbreak of covid-19. However, it was limited to commercial matters, such as arbitration cases, and was also dependent on the judge hearing the case. Post-implementation of the lockdown, e-filing was introduced for all urgent matters, irrespective of what the case was about.

Similarly, a majority of National Company Law Tribunals across the country had introduced digital means of filing cases before the coronavirus outbreak, but the tribunals had also made it mandatory to submit a physical copy. The number of physical copies was reduced from three to two. Since the lockdown, tribunals had been taking up only urgent matters through e-filing.

japnam.b@livemint.com

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