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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Digital push to bring lower courts online as part of SC’s e-courts project

The e-courts programme seeks to enable litigants to track their case status, access ‘cause lists’, daily orders as well as verdicts online. A ‘cause list’ is a schedule of cases to be heard by a court

india Updated: Sep 08, 2018 23:28 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India.
A view of the Supreme Court in New Delhi, India.(HT File Photo)
         

The government expects to bring online connectivity to 2,992 more district and lower courts across the country by the year-end as part of the Supreme Court-monitored ‘e-courts’ project aimed at improving access to justice through digitisation, according to data released by the law ministry.

Of these, 547 court complexes — mainly lower courts that are often the first point of litigation — still have no digital connectivity, the data shows.

The e-courts programme seeks to enable litigants to track their case status, access ‘cause lists’, daily orders as well as verdicts online. A ‘cause list’ is a schedule of cases to be heard by a court.

Manual work in courts is one of the reasons for India’s high judicial pendency, which refers to delays in disposing cases.

For instance, data from the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) shows there were over 4.2 million cases pending in 24 high courts until February 2018.

According to the Economic Survey 2017-18, the average pendency of tax cases is nearly 6 years per case. Further, the survey states that the average pendency of civil suits at the Delhi high court is 5.84 years, while at lower courts of Delhi, it is 3.66 years.

The NJDG is an online platform that now provides information on proceedings and decisions of 16,089 computerised district-level courts.

Under the latest phase of the e-courts programme, the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will connect subordinate courts with ‘wide area network’ connectivity or WAN at a cost of ₹167 crores. WAN is a technology that links computer networks across large geographic areas.

“The next step should be to enable complete online disposal of cases where the penalty is limited to monetary value, such as challan matters and municipal tax cases. This will considerably ease burden of the common man,” said Mayank Tiwari, assistant professor of the National Law University, Cuttack.

Phase I of the e-courts project was implemented from 2011 to 2015. Phase II of the project has a run period between 2015 and 2019, with an outlay Rs 1,670 crore. Electronic filing and online payment of court fees is now enabled in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Haryana.

At the end of phase I, 14,249 district and lower courts were made ready for computerisation, according to data from the justice department.

Over 14,000 judicial officers were trained in the use of an “UBUNTU-Linux Operating System” and more than 4,000 court personnel were trained in the case information system (CIS), official data show.

Video-conferencing facilities between 488 court complexes and 342 corresponding jails were also installed.

First Published: Sep 08, 2018 23:28 IST