DSK Legal | View firm profile
Anand Desai, Managing Partner, DSK Legal
Hanuman Tripathi, Chairman, Hashtasy Digital, and Council Member, NASSCOM
COVID-19 is a catalyst for rethinking various aspects of our lives, including the functioning of the judiciary, being one of the pillars under our Constitution.
As a long-term strategy, can physical attendance in our Court / Tribunal premises be minimized without compromising the process of justice delivery in any manner? Can scaled-up automation boost the entire Indian judicial process to a much higher level of efficiency, while enabling social distancing, and reducing the downsides of travel to, and waiting in Courts?
A national solution, such as has been done for Income Tax and Passports is possible. The Hon’ble Supreme Court can have its own Data Mart and a Country-wide Database of all the Hon’ble High Courts and lower Courts, to monitor the work-flow in these, again through automated systems and alerts as explained below.
Software development and products (which may be marginally different in processes for civil, criminal, intellectual property, tax, and family law, in order to use the benefits of specific technology for each) to aid the judicial process is also possible.
Work-Flow Automation can take care of Case Registration and Tracking Progress throughout all Courts in India, and the filing and the stage at which each case is at any point of time can be monitored by the software itself.
Until email filing is possible from each household or office, Case Registration points could be Post Offices in villages, Lawyers offices, Police Stations, or similar points with connectivity. This would be the first step of the Work-Flow system. Each filing would generate a unique lodging number that could be linked to the Aadhar Card or PAN Number of the person or entity filing the case. The validation of each filing can also be automated by a system check that confirms the existence of key particulars which are integral to a valid filing, with decision making regarding the validity or completeness of the filing being monitored by Court Officials (as the limited human interface) when the system throws up an alert viz. the system finds a defect or error. If the error requires inputs from the person who has done the filing, an email / sms / letter can be sent to the person to rectify the error. Once done, and the filing validated, the case will get registered, numbered, allotted to the appropriate Court based on geographical or pecuniary jurisdiction, or subject specialization, and a timetable for the stages required in the case towards its completion automatically generated by the system, which can take into account the already pending cases before that forum. The numbered case papers can then be emailed, or posted (in absence of an email address) by way of service on the Defendants / Respondents, together with the system generated timetable.
The software will then track the case progress as per the timetable that is generated, and send reminders to the Judges, court clerks, advocates and litigants for completion of each stage / hearing by secured alerts (to the authenticated persons) by email / sms / letter.
All documents filed in a case, evidence recorded, and orders/judgements can be handled by a Document Management solution that works on the back of the Work-flow Manager software.
Progress and previous activity can be checked by logging into a secured Software Portal (including an App on a Mobile Phone).
Alerts can be generated whenever the work-flow is interrupted, dates stipulated not adhered to or changed, and reasons can be sought and consequences provided for this. Generally, when reasons are to be given for non-compliance, and consequences imposed, it is human nature to comply.
Blockchain technology can be used to tamper proof / protect the documents and work-flow.
There can be a transaction / parcel passing between lower courts to High Courts and to the Supreme Court for judgements against which an appeal is preferred, or if a case is transferred to another Court.
Artificial Intelligence Algorithms can be used to find all cases involving the same issue / relying on the same case laws nationwide in any Court. This can be done not only for new cases, but by using Natural Language Programming and Robotic Process Automation tools can also be done for currently pending cases. These tools can read repeated / identified information from older documents. Both these technologies also help to read hand-written notes and replicate old typed documents into an Editable Software Solution.
At each Court, a mechanism can be stipulated for making urgent applications by a request through the same system, or an oral application to the Court in exceptional circumstances. That application and Orders passed thereon can become part of the Work-Flow system.
A judgement passed on a particular provision of law, or following, reversing or distinguishing an earlier judgement of the Supreme Court, or of a High Court, can trigger an alert in all cases involving the same issue across all Courts. Batches of cases can be disposed of accordingly, without (i) hearing the issue afresh, or (ii) limiting the arguments to written, or brief oral arguments on facts if a party feels the case can be distinguished on facts.
If the Supreme Court initiates a mandatory system of written arguments with a limit on number of words / pages, with limited timeslots for arguments, this can be easily achieved through Video Conferencing. Judges’ Chambers and their homes can be equipped with laptops and larger screens if required. Familiarity will only need to be to log in with a personal identity and security into the Court’s system, to access the listed cases by case number, which will automatically access all the documents in that case.
Each hearing can be triggered by timeslots for the start and stop, monitored by the court officer, and the Judges steno can be with the Judge for taking down and transcribing the Orders (this can also be done by Voice Recognition Software). If fixed timeslots are given, a list of cases to be heard and decided per day can be prepared by the system. Each day some time may be defined for passing longer Orders, although there should be encouragement to pass brief Orders containing reasons and the operative order, as the written arguments of parties would be available for the higher Courts to read.
High Speed Internet Bandwidth will be necessary to run the automated platform based solution, which is very common today for any platform. If a network is down, a redundant / back-up network of lower speed can be used.
All or most of the above may sound utopian, but are all achievable! There are vendors to build the systems, and several legaltech startups to keep contributing improvements!