Virtual courts not a substitute to physical courts: Justice DY Chandrachud
The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic forced the Supreme Court to resort to virtual court hearings to ensure the safety of lawyers, litigants and media personnel, Supreme Court judge justice DY Chandrachud said on Sunday.
But virtual court hearings will not replace or be a substitute to physical courts, justice Chandrachud made it clear 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’.
“I want to dissuade people from the idea that virtual court hearings are some sort of a panacea. 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, para-legal, 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 entry of lawyers and litigants to the court premises and directing that only extremely urgent cases will be taken up for hearing through video conferencing during the lockdown period.
The video conferencing is conducted by the court through ‘Vidyo app’ which can be downloaded on mobile phones and desktop.
On the use of technology in courts, justice Chandrachud said that technology is an inseparable adjunct to rule of law and will have to be employed as a critical element in court design. But it should be inclusive and should replace court procedures into manageable chunks, he added.
“Our court procedures are tardy and unintelligible to common people”, justice Chandrachud conceded.
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 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 are appear.
The service will be available round the clock which would mean that a lawyer can file a 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.