The Lockdown enforced in our country with effect from 25 March 2020, to contain the spread of COVID 19, and the recommended protocol for controlling the Pandemic, has led to the Courts in India lay down new rules for the administration of Justice.
Conventional filing of cases by the Advocates, by presenting printed Petitions on paper have been substituted by “e-filing”.
Judges are no longer sitting in Courts to hear Advocates and Litigants but are conducting hearings of cases from their homes through the electronic medium of “Video-Conferencing”.
However, the establishment of “e-Courts”, in these times, is confined to hearing urgent cases at this moment.
What needs to be considered is, if this is going to change the future scenario completely? Will Judges no longer sit in the Courts to hear cases? Will Advocates no longer come to the Courts to argue cases?
Whether with the optimum utilization of the best of the technology, are we going to develop a more convenient and advanced future of the traditional litigation?
Probably a brain storming on the above developments and the judiciary, post covid19 pandemic was the need of the hour. In the same direction, the Amity Law School, AUH happened to conduct a Webinar on the “Future of Litigation in India and e-Courts”.
The aim behind this webinar, in the words of the organizers, was to enlighten the participants and provide them with deep insight of Future of Litigation in India and the scope of e-Courts after this current Pandemic situation. The Panelist for the Webinar was Hon’ble Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar, Former Judge Supreme Court of India and Former Chairperson, National Green Tribunal.
In his address to the webinar participants, Justice Swatanter Kumar, explained the traditional modus operandi of India’s legal system. He said that in this difficult time created by the Pandemic, a lot of hue and cry is being created regarding the functioning of Courts post this situation.
Justice Kumar opined that India is the largest democracy in the world and we have a system for Administration of Justice, which had been established in our country more than 100 years ago and it is not so easy to take a complete shift therefrom. He said that considering the vastness of our Country, the hierarchy of Courts, the procedures to be adopted for Trials and non-availability of proper Internet Infrastructure, we cannot put the entire Judicial System to operate through e-Mode. Yes, there will be changes for which the younger generation of Advocates should keep them abreast with, he added.
It may be recalled that on April 6, invoking its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the Supreme Court issued directions for the functioning of courts through video conferencing during the lockdown. The Court directed the State officials of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) to liaison with the respective High Courts and formulate a plan for the virtual functioning of courts.
Unprepared, as the judiciary was with the sudden lockdown and realising that it may continue for a while, the Delhi High Court had accordingly formed a committee to lay down a graded plan for enabling the functioning of courts after the lockdown. The committee, headed by Justice Hima Kohli, was formed with the assumption that there will be a huge influx of new cases after the lockdown is lifted.
The committee while noting its final deliberations specifically mentioned that it may not be possible to predict a definite cut-off date for the resumption of normal functioning of the court system as there is no certainty about when the COVID-19 threat will end.
On another front, in a letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India, the Bar Council of India has opposed the continuation of virtual hearings once the lockdown is lifted. This is based on the grounds that 90% of the advocates and judges are “unaware of technology and its nuances”.
The webinar came to an end with a ‘vote of thanks’ proposed by Maj Gen PK Sharma (Retd), Professor & Director, Amity Law School and Dean Faculty of Law, Amity University Haryana who gave an overview about ALS and the session.
The webinar was coordinated by Pranshul Pathak, and attended by Faculty Members alongwith a huge number of students and advocates .