Virtual courts are not a panacea: Chandrachud
The Covid-19 outbreak forced the Supreme Court to resort to virtual court hearings so that the safety of lawyers, litigants and media personnel was not jeopardised, but such hearings will not replace or be a substitute for physical courts, Supreme Court judge, justice DY Chandrachud, said on Sunday.
“I want to dissuade people from the idea that virtual court hearings are some sort of a panacea,” justice Chandrachud said at a webinar organized by Nyaya Forum of National Academy of Legal Studies and Research, Hyderabad on the topic Future of Virtual Courts and Access to Justice in India.
“They will not be able to replace physical court hearings. We had to resort to virtual court hearings because Covid-19 descended without warning and we had no other choice. We had to protect those who come to court –lawyers, litigants, media personnel, paralegals, interns”, he said.
The Supreme Court, which is under complete shutdown due to the Coronavirus threat, has been hearing only extremely urgent cases since March 23 via video conferencing without the personal presence of lawyers.
The top court had issued a circular on March 23 suspending the entry of lawyers and litigants into the court premises and directing that only extremely urgent cases be taken up for hearing through video conferencing during the lockdown period.
The video conferencing is conducted by the court through the Vidyo app that can be downloaded on mobile phones and desktops.
On the use of technology in courts, justice Chandrachud said that technology was an inseparable adjunct to rule of law and will have to be employed as a critical element in court design. Justice Chandrachud, who is also the chairperson of the e-committee at the Supreme Court, said that the digitization of courts including e-filing must be standardized across the country
The filing of cases in the Supreme Court is set to undergo a radical change with the introduction of the new e-filing module in the near future. The module will provide personalized information to every advocate-on-record of cases which have been filed by them, their own causelist of cases, details of pleadings filed by them and pleadings filed by others in cases in which they appear.
The service will be available round the clock which would mean that a lawyer can file case anytime of the day and any day irrespective of whether the registry is working or not.
“We as judges have a vital role to ensure that young members of the Bar are trained and we have to do the hand-holding ourselves”, justice Chandrachud said.