E-Justice: The Road Map


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Use of ICT in Courts is increasing day by day. Courts of today are ready for the IT revolution. It is an open debate as to how to bring them at par with other modern organisations in terms of use of technology. This article is an attempt in this direction.

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E-Justice: The Road Map

  1. 1. E-Justice: The Road Map1. IntroductionAn independent, effective, just and efficient judicial system that fosters respect for therule of law is indispensable in a truly democratic system. Modernization, streamliningand improved efficiency of the court systems are paramount in order to ensure a highdegree of protection of individual rights and therefore increase citizens’ faith andconfidence in the State. In order to bring about reforms in judiciary to remove thearchaic procedures and outmoded administrative and management system,technological, communication and management related changes are to be broughtabout. Computerization of judiciary is one of the important ingredients of judicialreforms. Technological Developments in the field of information and introduction ofcomputers have made a turning point in the history of human civilization. It hasbrought about a sea change in all fields of human activity. It has resulted in enhancedefficiency, productivity and quality of output in every walk of life. The informationtechnology is advocated in the western countries for the last two or three decades, buthardly any worthwhile effort has been made till recently, particularly, in judicialadministration of courts in developing countries. There is an immediate need forexposing legal profession, judicial fraternity and court management to the updatedcomputerized technology so as to render speedy justice with better legal outputs.Extensive use of Information Technology by diverse organizations the world over hasresulted in enhanced efficiency, effectiveness and optimal use of resources.Computers as well as electronic communication devices such as facsimile machines,electronic mail, video conferencing, provide the ability to process large volumes ofdata with speed and accuracy, exchange of useful information between differentlocations and support higher quality of decision making. These capabilities havecontributed to more efficient and responsive systems not only in businessorganizations, but also in legal, governmental and other public systems. While theInformation Revolution arrived in Africa some years ago, automation has nottransformed all facets of life in equal measure. It has not permeated to the judiciary inparticular, resulting in old work methods based on manual systems being continuedeven now. The enormous problems being faced by the judiciary due to arrears,backlog and delays can be partly resolved by the introduction of automation in courts.We have to keep in mind that we can not follow the developed countries blindlywithout realizing the ground realities. We do not have sufficient funds to go for large-scale computerization of courts. Therefore, we have to be realistic and proceed in aphased manner. Optimal utilization of funds is required in this field as the justicedelivery system is answerable to the public at large.The main components of computerization consist of procurement of hardware, choiceof operating system and development of software. All of them are highly capitalintensive and care has to be taken while making well informed choices. 1
  2. 2. 2. Hardware2.1 Computers: There are three choices for type of computers which can be used forcomputerization of Courts: • Personal Computers • Dumb Terminals • Thin ClientsStand alone Personal Computer Systems [PCs] are the best choice for Courts insteadof Dumb Terminals [A terminal that doesn’t contain an internal micro processor. Itresponds to simple control codes and usually displays only characters and numericals]or Thin Clients- linked to main server [A computer system that provides informationto other computers on a network] through the network. The rationale of opting for PCsystem is to allow system to perform the required task that is capability of storingsufficient amount of data and retrieval of the same should be quick and instantlyavailable as and when required for efficient functioning of the Court.Moreover, the Judges are hesitant to allow transfer of half-baked information to theservers like judgments or orders, which have not been finalized. Similarly the data fordaily use is required to be kept in the computers of the individual Courts.2.2 Local Area Network [LAN]: All the computer systems in a Court Complex are tobe linked to the servers by LAN [Local Area Network]. Optical Fiber Cable is best forfast transfer of data.2.3 Printers: Only one Printer can be provided on the table of the Stenographers forone Court. The Record Clerk is required to take printout of the reports, cause list andother documents at the Stenos end as all the computers are networked with each other.2.4 Servers: The Server Room is the nerve centre of all activity as far as thecomputerization is concerned. All the application softwares are loaded in the Servers.Two servers are required for running a Computer System in a Court Complex: ◦ Application Server ◦ Data ServerParallel servers are required for back-up purpose, so that in case of any disaster,Computer System may be run from parallel servers.2.5 UPS: Centralized UPS [Uninterrupted Power Supply] System can be used topower the computer systems in case of electricity failure. One UPS of 10 KVA servesabout 30 computer systems. These UPS are to be installed in secured ventilated roomswith proper power supply and from those UPS rooms, power cables are to be laid tothe users ends in respective Courtrooms.2.6 Dedicated Leased Lines: The Court Complexes are to be connected toHeadquarters by using 2 MBPS leased lines. Enhanced speed as well as online 2
  3. 3. connectivity is required for integration of the computerization process of all Courtsinto one centralized system from the users’ point of view.3. Operating SystemOperating system is the software that determines how a computer operates, includingsuch things as file structure, input and output devices, printer routines and screenmanipulations.When the question regarding selection of the - operating system comes up, then wehave two choices: • Proprietary based Operating Systems like Windows, Mac etc. • Free Open Source Operating Systems like Linux, Ubuntu etc.After considering the pros and cons of both types of operating systems, it can besafely said that LINUX based operating system is best suited for courtscomputerization. The main reason for selecting this operating system is that it is costeffective and is open platform software. As and when future upgrades are required, thesame are available either free of cost on the Internet or at a negligible cost. The otherreason to go for LINUX based system is that it is almost virus free.4. Customized SoftwareThe heart of computerization of Court is the customized software which can bedeveloped under the guidance and supervision of a Software Development Committeeof the Court. The Judges and the Court Staff can give their valuable inputs to softwaredevelopers to make them aware of the work flow type of registers/ forms/ data/summons/warrants etc. being maintained and the reports being generated in theCourts. Requirements can be analyzed and in accordance with the said requirementsspecific Softwares can be developed.After a test run and approval of the Software Development Committee, the softwaremodules are to be integrated in the main Case Information Management System(CIMS).The Courts are governed under the Court Rules, Acts and a number of otherlegislations, customary laws and rules passed from time to time. Entire working isquite complex to understand by a layman who may be a programmer but withouthaving any legal background. Software programmers are to be taught step by step thecomplex processes before they may venture into the development of the appropriatecustomized software modules. These software modules are to be standardized andauthorization is to be given to integrate them in the master software known as CIMS.5. Application of ICTThe main Court processes, which can be computerized and put into practice, arecategorized as under: 3
  4. 4. (i) Creation of database of all the pending cases – In every Court, there is hugeback log of cases. Every year thousands of cases are filed and disposed of. It is amammoth task to enter the details of all the pending cases into the computer system. Itis possible by dividing the data entry into three stages.At that initial stage, the staff is required to enter only the case name, type of the caseand other minor details so that unique ID (Identity Number) of the case is created anda slot is reserved for the case in the CMIS. In the second stage, complete names,addresses and other particulars of the parties to the cases are to be entered. In the thirdstage, the list of witnesses and all other remaining fields will be entered.(ii) Automatic generation of Cause Lists After computerization, the database isupgraded on daily basis by the Record Keepers so, as and when required, Cause Listfor any working day can be generated at the press of the button. It saves time, effortsand energy on the part of Record Keepers who will become more efficient afterintroduction of the automatic generation of Cause List. The said Cause Lists are alsoavailable on the Internet in advance, so that lawyers and litigants can plan andschedule their visits to the Courts accordingly.(iii) Automatic generation of Monthly Statements - As mentioned earlier, theentire database is available on computers; the Monthly Statement is generated only onthe press of a button, resulting in saving of time and energy. The response time isreduced to the bare minimum.The said statements can be generated for a week, fortnight or on monthly basis, whichhelps in planning by the Judges to maximize the disposal.(iv) Generation of reports in response to Legislature questions-Sometimes House of Legislature questions are received regarding number of cases ofa particular type pending in the Courts, the age of the cases or the Courts in which thesaid cases are pending. All these details can be sorted out on the basis of the inquiryand reports can be generated and dispatched in the least possible time only because ofavailability of the entire data on the Servers.(v) Centralized Filing - Prior to computerization, the filing is scattered in differentCourts causing great inconvenience to the Lawyers and the public at large. Nobody issure about the place where he had to do the filing. After computerization, specialCounters known as “Facilitation Centers” can be set up in all Court Complexeswhere the entire filing for the Courts can be done.As soon as a matter is filed, it is given a unique number. The said number will remainpermanent for the life of the case irrespective of the fact that the case is transferredfrom one Court to the other. Even after final disposal, the case file can be easily tracedfrom the Record Room on the basis of this number.With the introduction of permanent case numbers, one can easily trace his case bymaking query on the internet or by visiting the Information Counters where Public 4
  5. 5. Relation Officers can be appointed to assist the general public and the Lawyers foranswering their specific queries regarding the allocation, transfer and pendency ofcases and their present status.(vi) Automatic allocation of cases – After filing of cases at the Central Registry,computer sorts them on the basis of set norms like jurisdiction of a particular PoliceStation, pendency status in the respective Courts, specific allocation of cases todesignated Courts and other per-determined parameters and the cases areautomatically allocated to the Courts. The lawyers/litigants are informed in the leastpossible time about the allocation of the cases filed by them. This system operateswithout any intervention by the officials manning the Filing Counters, so the chancesof manipulation in allocation of cases are ruled out.(vii) Transfer of the physical case file and the data to the Allocated Court - Afterallocation, data captured in the Central Registry is transferred to the alloacated Courtthrough Central Server. Once the case reaches the concerned court, the RecordKeepers makes the second and third stage entries, i.e., he completes names andaddresses of the parties and witnesses in the computer system along-with the next dateof hearing as fixed by the learned Judge. So by the end of the day, the entire details ofthe cases filed during the course of the day reach the Central Server and the said datacan be used for any pre-defined purpose.(viii) Grouping of cases – The grouping of similar types of cases can be done withinfew minutes because the entire data regarding the nature of cases, their respective age,special characteristics, nature of offences, age of the accused, place of residence of theparties and other unique identities are available in the data bank.(ix) Automation of the Process Serving Agency – A major bottleneck in speedydisposal of cases is the long time taken by process serving agency in serving thesummons of the case. The Process Serving Agency follows the practices adoptedabout one century ago, which needs to be updated. The summonses are to be enteredin the Computerized Registers on receipt from respective Courts. The said Programautomatically allocates the summons to the next Process Server in line and thesummonses are accordingly distributed area-wise to the Process Servers by thecomputer. After such distribution, the progress regarding service of summons is notedon day-to-day basis in the form of Daily Reports to be submitted by the said ProcessServers.The Record Keepers of the Courts can have the facility to check at the end of the dayas to how many summons issued by their respective Courts can be served and howmany of them are still pending.(x) Implementation of the Financial Accounting Package - The Accounts and CashBranch can be fully automated. Payment of Salaries to the Judges and the Staff istaken care of by the System. The fines collected in the Courts, fees collected in theCopying Agency and other Branches can be monitored by the Accounts and Cash 5
  6. 6. Branch on real time basis and remedial actions are taken as and when required. It willminimize the risk of financial irregularities because the details are available online andany deliberate deviations can be pin-pointed well within time.(xi) Automated Attendance Marking System - The Courts can opt for modern Automated Attendance Marking System based upon Advanced Smart Card Technology. A Micro Chip of 1 KB capacity is embedded in every Smart Card, which contains all the details regarding a particular employee along-with his photograph and designation etc. The attendance can be marked on the Automatic Contactless Terminals provided at the entry points of Court Complexes. To mark the attendance, the Card is to be swiped before the Machine and a finger print is taken within seconds. The problem regarding late coming and leaving the Court early stands resolved by installing this system.The Attendance software is duly integrated with the Salary Preparation System and ittakes care of leaves availed by the said employees. Different reports based upon theinformation captured through the system can be generated. The entire informationcollected from the Court Complexes regarding attendance is combined in onedatabase, which can be accessed even from the web browser.(xii) Digitization of Disposed Records - The disposed files take a lot of space tostore, so the same can be digitized instead of maintaining them in physical form fordecades together. A lot of space can be made available for other important purposesafter digitization of the records and there is no danger of any fire, termites or othernatural calamities, which may destroy the record. Proper backups are being kept atdifferent places so that the data is not lost in case of any disaster.(xiii) Computerization of Judges’ Libraries - The Judges’ Libraries in the CourtComplexes have hundreds of thousands of books, which can be affixed with Bar CodeTags. On the intra-net, the judgments of the Higher Courts are provided so that Judgesmay access them from their computers installed in the chambers. The said judgmentscan also be accessed from terminals installed in Courts so that the Judges have theease of looking for a particular law point and use the same as and when required. E-law Journals with huge databases can be provided in Computers installed in JudgesLibraries and CDs can be given to Judges for law reference and research purposes.(xiv) Provision of two TFT LCD Screens on the Dias – Two TFT/LCD 15Screens can be provided on the Dias which are connected to the computers of theStenos. One TFT Screen is facing the Lawyers and Litigants and they can read theevidence being typed by the Steno on the dictation of the Judge. The Judges are alsoable to keep a watch on the evidence being recorded by Stenos under their dictationand they are further able to go through the transcripts of the judgments typed out bythe Stenos. Necessary corrections can be made there and then so that the judgmentsare announced on time, without any delay and mistakes. 6
  7. 7. (xv) Provision of Computers in the Chambers of the Judges – Judges can beprovided with computer systems in their chambers so that they are able to use them asand when they are free. He/She can transfer the files from his Court Room to hisresidential Computer Systems by using the secured E-mail facility. Judges may makenecessary corrections in the judgments in the comfort of their homes and thereafter thesaid judgments can be transmitted to Courts by using the secured E-mail.(xvi) Computerization of Copying Agency - Since all the orders and judgments willbe available on the intra-net, so there will be no need for typing or photocopying theorders in the Copying Agency. The required orders can be downloaded and printed inthe Copying Agency, properly authenticated and delivered to the applicants in theminimum possible time.(xvii) Secured E-Mail Facility - E-Mail facility can be provided to all the Judges andCourts with the commissioning of dedicated E-Mail Server for district judiciary. TheJudges are able to transfer the drafts of the judgments/orders from Courts to theirresidences by using the secured e-mail facility and vice-versa. All the circulars arealso e-mailed to the Judges. Courts can be able to cut cost of paper printing and laborby use of e-mail facility.(xviii) Automatic Personnel Information System - Prior to computerization, it isvery difficult to keep track of the postings of the staff members. A PersonnelInformation System (PIS) can be put in place. All the details and particulars of theemployees along-with their postings can be entered into the system and the saidsoftware generates the reports on the set parameters and indicates the names of theCourt Officials who are due for their transfers after serving for a particular number ofyears in their present postings. The said PIS System also takes care of the AnnualConfidential Reports, Provident Fund Entries and Service Book Entries. It signals wellin time the steps to be taken in respect of the Court Officials who are going to retire innear future. It helps in proper management of the staff, which is a valuable asset forthe Courts.(xix) Stores Management - Every year, the Courts purchase huge quantity ofdurables and consumables. A proper Stores Management System can be put in placewith computerization of the Courts. It indicates well in time the store items, whichneed replenishment, monthly/weekly consumption pattern of different types of storesand the budgeted and actual expense on a particular store item. It helps in planning thefuture budget for purchase of the store items and proper inventories are maintained.(xx) Automatic Generation of Summons and Warrants etc.- After the introductionof computerization, the summons to the witnesses and Notices to the parties,Production Warrants, Bailable and Non Bailable Warrants, Release Warrants andcustody warrants etc. can be generated by using the Computer System. The RecordKeepers selects the serial number of witness to be summoned on the screen of themonitor and thereafter, the summons is automatically generated showing the next dateof hearing, time of appearance and the purpose for which the summons/warrant can be 7
  8. 8. issued. It saves a lot of time for the Record Keepers and the summonses are generatedin a legible format, which can be duly acted upon by the concerned authorities.(xxi) Introduction of Digital Signatures - Digital signatures can be provided to theJudges and the Court officials. After pronouncing the judgments, the same can bedigitally signed and transmitted in a secured environment to the intended recipients.The benefit of digitally signing a document is that a third party will not be able tomake alteration in the contents of the document and the intended receiver on receiptcan verify whether the transmitted document can be in its original format or not.Successful experiments can be made to transmit the bail orders to the jail complexesfrom Courts by using the digital signatures.(xxii) Video Conferencing – There is an urgent need to establish Video conferencingStudios in all the Court Complexes to enable Video Conferencing between Courts andJails as well as between Courts and Witnesses, who are living at far flung places andare unable to come to Court to attend the hearings. The cases can be expeditiouslyheard by use of video conferencing facility.(xxiii) Direct Connectivity with Police, Hospitals and Jails - Direct connectivitywith different Police Stations is to be established so that copies of FIR can be sentusing E-mail and other electronic facilities to the concerned Judges. The summons ofpolice witnesses can be also issued using electronic communication. This way, thewastage of Court time in summoning the police officials can be minimized anddisposal rate will certainly increase.Similarly, direct access to the data banks of different hospitals is needed as theMedico Legal Cases requiring opinion in respect of nature of injuries, the availabilityof the doctors to depose in Courts and opinion of the experts take a long time to reachthe Court.Courts need direct access to the Computer Systems of the Jail Authorities to ascertainthe status of under-trials as on number of occasions, the under trials are not produceddue to one reason or the other. The bail orders can also be transmitted electronically toJail by e-mail in secured environment using digital signatures.(xxiv) Interactive Voice Response System - In developing countries, the penetrationof computers is very low. Although most of the lawyers now have computers andInternet facility but most of the litigants do not have these facilities available to them.To provide instant information to them, the District Court can introduce InteractiveVoice Response System by providing dedicated telephone numbers for inquiry. Thelitigants can dial these numbers and a machine voice will guide them to makeappropriate choices regarding Court Complexes, type and number of Court, details ofthe case and then the present status of the case will be intimated to him. The detailsprovided are the next date of hearing and the purpose for which the case is listed.(xxv) SMS Inquiry Facility for Lawyers/Litigants – The lawyers, who register fore-filing, will also be provided facility of automatic SMS intimating them the next date 8
  9. 9. of hearing and purpose for which their cases can be adjourned. The litigants and otherlawyers can send in their queries at a given number by SMS and the latest details oftheir cases will be sent back to them by SMS. It will save frequent visits to Courts bythe lawyers, their staff and litigants to know the present status of their cases.(xxvi) E-filing - The next big step is E-filing. Infrastructure to allow the Lawyers tofile civil cases in electronic form can be put in place. The availability of the electroniccopies of arguments and pleading in the system improves the efficiency of the CaseInformation Management System (CIMS), as there will not be any need to type in thedetails mentioned in the said cases and the summonses can be generated anddispatched to the parties by E-mail and fax by enclosing the copies of the petition anddocuments available in electronic form.(xxvii) Courts Website - The Court Website can be a very useful step to facilitatejustice system. It can provide the Judges, Lawyers, litigants and the general public alot of facilities. Some of the proposed facilities can be:(a) Introduction - The brief background of the Court complexes can be given.Specific Courts housed in the said Court complexes can be detailed and direct linkscan be provided to the said Courts. Introduction of the sitting Judges can be provided.(b) Jurisdiction - The jurisdiction of different types of Courts situated in Courts canbe given. The Court numbers, names of the Judges, their respective jurisdictions,specific room numbers and their place of sitting can be listed.(c) General Information - General information regarding types of cases, place offiling, requisite documents to be filed along-with specific types of petitions, necessaryCourt Fees to be affixed etc. can be provided in the General Information Section.(d) Important Links - Links can be provided to important legal Websites availableon the internet.(e) Tender/Bids - All the tenders and bids issued by the Courts can be uploaded onthe internet so that interested vendors may submit their competitive quotations and thepurchases can be made in an open and fair manner.(f) Daily Cause List - Cause Lists of the Court can be uploaded a day in advance onthe inter-net. Lawyers and litigants can plan their visit to the respective Court Roomson the basis of the information provided in the Cause Lists and it helps in reducing therush in the Court in the morning hours.(g) Bare Acts - Bare Acts, which are necessary for running the Courts on day today basis can be provided with direct links so that as and when required, a particularbare Act may be accessed and relevant section may be extracted, copied, saved orprinted. 9
  10. 10. (h) Pleading Forms - Most of the pleading forms used for filing in the Courts can belisted and their specimen formats can be provided on the Website so that Lawyers andlitigants are able to use the said forms for drafting pleadings.(i) Daily Orders- All the day-to-day orders passed by the Courts can be uploaded insecured PDF format on the same day so that lawyers/litigants are able to access themby the evening. The orders can be searched by name of the Judge and specific date ofthe said order.(j) Courts Judgments - Judgments pronounced by Courts can be uploaded on theInternet in secured PDF format so that the lawyers and litigants are able to access thesaid judgments and there is no need to come to Court for their copies as prints can bedirectly taken from the Website. It reduces the work load of the Copying Agency andthe visits of the public and the lawyers to the Court complexes. Care is to be taken notto upload the judgments matters of sensitive nature.(k) Case Status - Any litigant can check the case status on the Internet by entering thename of any of the party/case number/Court Number/Name of Judge. Free text searchcan be also available. One can check the case status even by entering the type of caseif he is not sure of any of the above parameters. It reduces the crowds in Court Roomswhere litigants/lawyers and their clerks visit only for enquiring the purpose for whichthe case is fixed on the next date of hearing.(l) Certified Copy Status - The certified copy status of the applications filed in theCourt Complexes is available on the internet. If the copy is ready, the party can visitthe Copying Agency and collect the same. If the copy is not ready then the probabledate when the copy will be ready is automatically displayed and there is no need tovisit Copying Agency only for the purpose of noting down the next date when thecopy will be ready.(m) On Line Inquiry Facility - To reduce the rush in the Courts, an on-lineenquiry facility can be provided on the Website. Litigants/lawyers can submit theirqueries, which are answered on-line in least possible time. The inquiries can berelated to any matter concerning their cases pending in Courts.(n) Statistics- The periodical pendency statements in respect of all types of cases arealso published on the Website, which are quite helpful to understand the trend ofdisposal of cases.(o) Minute to minute progress of Cause List on Internet - Minute to minuteprogress of the Cause Lists of the Courts can be provided, so that the lawyers andlitigants can know whether their cases can be adjourned or their matters are stillpending and they can attend the same.6. Conclusion: These are some of the areas where ICT applications can besuccessfully tried in Courts. E-Courts are a reality and sooner we realize their utility, it 10
  11. 11. is better for the society and the country. E-Court Systems are a bit costly but thebenefits offset the costs in the longer run. 11