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CIS Comments on the Phase III of E-Courts draft policy

Posted by Aman Nair, Arinjay Vyas, Pallavi Bedi, Garima Saxena at Jun 03, 2021 12:33 PM |



This submission is a response by the researchers at CIS to the Supreme Court E-committee’s draft vision document of phase III of the E-courts project.

We have put forward the following comments and recommendations based on our analysis of the draft report:


A. General Comments

  1. The report must place greater emphasis and take into consideration the digital divide between the urban and rural population as well as the the gender divide that exists amongst Indian citizens

  2. There is a lack of clarity on how the data will be collected and shared between the different systems within the ICJS and for how long will the data be retained.

  3. There is a lack of clarity on the rules and regulations surrounding storage of data collected under this project

  4. There are a number of key limitations of the proposed technologies (automated courts, virtual courtrooms and online dispute resolution mechanisms) that will limit their effectiveness

  5. Increased technological integration would require dedicated efforts to foster public trust in the judicial process.

B. International Comparison

We have comparatively analysed the integration of digital technology into the judiciary in both South Asia and Africa. Having identified their implementation in both these regions we have identified the following trends:

  1. While South Asian countries like Philippines and Thailand are constantly developing strong systems to handle most cases online and transitioning to an e-court system, countries like Vietnam and Indonesia have introduced limited systems for exchange of documents before hearings.

  2. The issues reported with the functioning of the e-court system in South Asian nations include insufficient infrastructure and equipment, inadequate training of court personnel, limited IT support, and staff shortages that constrain data encoding and updating of court records.

  3. Countries like China and Singapore undertook a deliberative slow uptake process, applying eCourts and technology to judicial hearings sectorally in the beginning to test their effectiveness. Thereafter large-scale implementation of virtual or digital courts and new technologies like - data analytics for caseload prediction in Singapore and China’s e-evidence platform based on blockchain technology - have proved to serve the intended purpose of efficient and effective judicial process with the aid of digital technologies.

  4. African countries such as Kenya and Libya have seamlessly transitioned to virtual court systems and e-filings along with other e-services for justice delivery. However, challenges with implementation persist, mainly relating to -

    • ●  Low internet penetration rates creating a digital divide mainly between the urban and rural areas of Africa.

    • ●  Power outages, mainly in rural areas of Africa thus creating an impediment to access to justice with respect to virtual hearings in rural areas without electricity backup.

    • ●  Lack of skills for operating digital judicial systems requiring effective and continuous user-training to operate technologies like Kenya’s Electronic Case Management System (ECMS).

    • ●  Challenges with complicated digital systems where continuous user platform development is required to simplify processes to access and use systems like online-filing or access to judicial websites so as to make it easy to use for all stakeholders involved.

    • ●  Need for a singular legislative and regulatory framework prior to adoption, whereby different rules on similar cases in different virtual courts across states causes inter-state judicial splits, an impediment to access to justice

  1. C. Recommendations:

  2.    1. Dedicated programs must be identified and supported to ensure that citizen focused digitisation takes place so as to not leave any people out of the scope of the judiciary

    1. A dedicated regulatory and administrative framework must be published as soon as possible that takes into consideration questions of data storage, data protection and purpose limitation among other considerations. Such a framework must also explicitly call out the limited use cases of technologies like virtual courts.

    2. The MHA to codify and specify the regulations with regard to the processing of data through the systems under the ICJS and clear directives on the nature and scope of integration of judicial infrastructure with the ICJS must be provided

    3. Studies to be conducted to identify the challenges that may arise when implementing proposals such as virtual or automated courts, virtual courtrooms that use audio visual software and online dispute resolution mechanisms. Such studies would allow for policies to be effectively identified prior to widespread implementation and would significantly reduce the possibility of unintended harms.

    4. Identifying measures to improve public trust in the integration of technology within the judiciary through judicial education schemes, etc.

    5. Due to varying precedents provided by High Courts and the Supreme Court of the country, there is a requirement for uniform and clear guidelines/directives with respect to the process of electronic evidence management and preservation in India. 

    The full submission can be found here