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E-filing paving way for virtual courts, no going back: CJI S.A. Bobde

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Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde said the coronavirus pandemic forced rethinking on the functioning of the top court, which paved the way for virtual courts. He stressed that this step will not be reversed. “We went for video conferencing to reduce the footfall in court premises. We have to change according to needs of the times. We have to accept the present situation. There is a need for change of mindset. Now there is no going back,” he said at the inauguration of an online demo of the Supreme Court e-filing module, which was webcast.

The inauguration was also attended by the Chairperson of the Supreme Court e-Committee, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud. This business of e-filing is the first step towards establishing e-courts, the CJI added.

Chief Justice Bobde said it is an extraordinary situation in extraordinary times, and the pandemic forced rethinking of how the top court operates. “To rethink what is essential for the essence of the judicial system… The Supreme Court was the first institution to respond to this danger (Covid-19 spread),” he said.

It was decided not to open in the usual way and then transitioned into virtual courts and through this move, it was ensured that the court should not become the centre to propagate the virus, he added. He insisted that this business of e-filing is the first step towards e-courts, and there is no doubt, e-filing received impetus due to coronavirus.

“Technology must be simple to use, and does not exclude any citizen anywhere. The rule of law must survive irrespective of virus. Artificial Intelligence can play a great role in organisation of courts, categorisation of matters and automation of courts. If we were to have this system during Ayodhya matter, then we could have dealt much more efficiently, as there were thousands of pages to go through,” the CJI said, contending that the lockdown prepared the apex court for a new working environment.

Justice Chandrachud said the pandemic has thrown up unprecedented challenges, and it calls for a calibrated and institutional response. “What we do today will define the futurea Besides the Supreme Court, we have 17,000 courts. Overcoming the initial glitches, the deployment of VC hearings have been utilised across the nation,” he said.

He cited Patna High Court has dealt with 450 cases via video conferencing, and trial courts have dealt with lakhs of cases. “We have devised: E-filings, which is available 24/7. Digitalised objection scrutiny mechanism. E-payment of Court fees and incorporating digital signatures. Dashboard will be a comprehensive e-folder of all individual data of respective lawyers,” said Justice Chandrachud, insisting that e-filing is important for an efficient justice delivery system.

Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) President, advocate Shivaji Jadhav as well as the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President, senior advocate Dushyant Dave were also present on the occasion.


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