The wheels of justice stopped turning in, when the COVID- 19 had ushered in a 4 staged lockdown bringing a ‘new normal’ for everyone, until court rooms opened the door for virtual technology. It is hard to imagine yet another moment when people can be acquainted with the significance of technology. Owing to COVID, when everything got muddled up, it was technology that gave a glimmer of hope to everyone whether it’s online learning of students or virtual court rooms. However, nothing can replace the physical interactions and the old procedure as the new normal requires hindering what we have always known like attorney’s table, spectator seating, judge’s bench and mass crowd heading for their respective work.
OILING THE WHEEL
This pandemic has further added an insult to injury when proceedings came to a halt as there were already a mammoth number of cases pending before the courts and this number has been skyrooted since the pandemic. There have been around 37 Million cases pending from the last 10 years but granting the courts to continue their hearings online is really a commendable decision by the government as it will not only provide speedy trial during pandemic but also be beneficial in normal proceedings when people aren’t able to come to court due to different jurisdictions. In the long run also, it’ll be time saving if court continue to hear cases online which are pertaining to petty offences like traffic challans and this move will reduce the burden of cases on judiciary. This very method has been adopted by Madras High Court to conduct hearings online. In the words of justice Sivanagam, ‘judiciary has always been pioneer in adopting technology and since everyone has Smartphone these days, it’ll be convenient to conduct hearings online.
NOT A NEW CONCEPT
Conducting hearings online isn’t the new concept Swapnil tripathi, a student of NLU Jodhpur, who was interning in Supreme Court filed a writ petition suggesting online streaming of proceedings which will help the interns as interns are not allowed to enter in court on Mondays and Thursdays due to mammoth number of cases being taken up. As a response, Supreme Court welcomed the move stating that it’s open to explore the live streaming subject to certain conditions. However, this is not just limited to India, many other countries like USA conduct hearings online. Various high courts have been sticked to this idea stating that they can attend the hearings from anywhere and it’ll be beneficial for the parties who have different jurisdictions. Further, it saves time and travel for example, E-filing of cases helps people to do file in just seconds.
ONLINE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (ODR)
Ensuring speedy justice will require settling disputes with the help of online dispute resolution. It’s used mainly for small or medium cases and run on the technology used by ADR alternate dispute resolution. Our supreme court has done amazing work in resolving disputes online as compared to other jurisdictions. ODR makes it easy to solve disputes speedily. However, now ODR has been used for urgent matters only. It runs with the help of internet and ICT to ensure predictability, consistency, transparency and efficiency of judicial system. Techniques used ODR are negotiation, mediation and arbitration. It also focuses on dispute containment and avoidance to ensure problem doesn’t reach the stage of a dispute. It improves country’s rank in ease of doing business as it takes only 1 month in ODR which takes almost 6 months in arbitration. US e-commerce companies are using ODR since 2000. Now it is high time India should use ODR to ensure speedy trial as everything is going online.
THE ROAD LYING AHEAD
From the words of Winston Churchill “never let a good crisis go waste”, it can be derived that we should use take advantage of this golden opportunity to conduct things online and using technology to the best of it. However, uses of technology are many, it still requires some training and infrastructure to run efficiently. Even after this phase of COVID, online proceedings of petty offences shouldn’t be stopped as technology in one way or the other make the country developed.