Earlier this week, a small corner of the Delhi High Court became India’s first e-court, embracing technology in a way it is hoped will encourage the judiciary to spread the bug!
What is of particular interest to the SpicyIP team and its readers is that the pilot e-court project was ushered in in the courtroom of Justice S Ravindra Bhat, a judge who has been at the forefront of several key IP decisions in the recent past. Cries for “speedier” justice may well have been heard at last, and both litigants and practitioners should be excited about this development. IP stakeholders, of course, are being treated as guinea pigs, but heck, it is all for the greater common good!
This post involved inputs from Kruttika and Prashant of the SpicyIP team, making this a true “team” post! Both have already seen how the court works at first hand, and had some positive things to say.
The key feature of the e-court is the ability of lawyers to make paperless digitised submissions, including submissions where references can be hyperlinked to help the judge (or any other reader) instantly access further information on a given matter. Kruttika gives us a live update on the judge using such submissions — it was quicker to understand a slightly technical matter during the course of the matter with realtime access to the internet.
The courtroom now sports a screen, which as yet only passively displays the causelist. But perhaps as time goes by, one may be able to see what exactly the judge can see as well, in order to have the lawyers and the judge – literally – on the same page.
Prashant adds that things are generally a lot smoother and less messier than they used to be. According to the Times of India, 18 matters were heard in a matter of just two hours with no paper or files being exchanged. Timing it for Copenhagen?
One thing to be careful about is the discomfort caused by staring at the computer screen constantly – the judges may need some extra tips on how to avoid that crick in the neck!
Of more general interest is the fact that the High Court’s computer committee, headed by Justice BD Ahmed, has already digitised around 5.5 crore papers relating to cases up to 2007. The process has involved scanning documents and storing them on a central server such that the documents can be accessed by all computers in the intranet. There is a slight backlog to catch up on in the digitisation, but hopefully this will be overcome soon. For those of you who want to read more, take a look at the e-court presentation that the High Court has put up on its website here.
Petitions and submissions can be made in PDF format, according to the Indian Express, and the court also intends to send summons and notices through emails. Where no email IDs are available, summons may be emailed to the nearest post-office. The vagaries of the neighbourhood postman will have to be accounted for, but in any case, the process will cut down timelines like nothing before.
The committee is also considering the possibility of setting up a web portal for broadcasting proceedings of cases that may involve larger public interest. If this is the case, I can already foresee a case being made for IP cases under this category. Now, when shall we put up our next petition?
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