Gujarat courts pride of place in legal history

Gujarat will add another feather to its cap when Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan will inaugurate the e-court pilot project at the Ahmedabad City Civil and Sessions Court,Tagore Hall,on Sunday.

Written by Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Published:February 8, 2009 2:22 am

Chief Justice of India to inaugurate country’s first e-court in Ahmedabad today

Gujarat will add another feather to its cap when Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan will inaugurate the e-court pilot project at the Ahmedabad City Civil and Sessions Court,Tagore Hall,on Sunday. The two e-courts—the first in the country and the second in the world after the Metropolitan Court of London—will become functional from Monday.

The e-courts will have tamper-proof authenticated digital recording of courtroom proceedings along with multi-point video-conferencing between the courtroom,central jail,the office of the police commissioner and forensic science laboratory,during case trials.

The entire proceedings will be seen on LCD screens in the courtroom,with the undertrials getting to speak to their advocates as also judges without being escorted to the court. The police and forensic experts can also participate in the proceedings as and when required.

As early as 2004,six jails in the state were equipped with video-conferencing facility. But the e-court is a unique concept,as all court proceedings will be digitally recorded and available for future requirements.

Apart from saving government money,the videos will enable judges to watch proceedings for review; play back statements of attorneys,prosecutors and defendants in case of any dispute; allow judges to review pronouncement of sentences; and become a point of reference in case a witness turns hostile.

They can also be used as a backup by court officers where they have missed a word or statement,as well as a case management tool for use by a judge to find out why the case was rescheduled on a previous count as also to streamline and expedite judicial operations.

The concept is being launched on a pilot basis. If it succeeds,it will be replicated in other cities like Vadodara,Surat,Rajkot and Bhavnagar.

According to Sonia Gokani,Assistant Registrar (Information Technology),Gujarat High Court,the facility could be extended to courts up to the taluka level once they are e-connected.  

With the state sanctioning Rs 1.25 crore for e-connectivity in the new budget,Gokani hopes to get all courts in the state e-connected through GSWAN (Gujarat State Wide Area Network) in the next nine months. Under the plan,all taluka courts will be e-connected to the districts,and the latter with the High Court.

Conceived in December 2005 jointly by the Union Home Ministry,Union Ministry of Science and Technology,and the Union Ministry of Communications and Information Technology,the project was aimed at synergising technology with judicial process. It was implemented with technical assistance from the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC),Noida; Technology Information,Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC),and the Directorate of Forensic Sciences,Delhi and Gujarat. The total cost stood at Rs 1.5 crore,with Rs 1.15 crore contributed by the state government and Rs 35 lakh by CDAC.

The recurring cost per annum will be Rs 5.30 lakh and replicating a new e-court project will cost merely Rs 24 lakh.

According to Registrar General Pradeep Bhatt,Gujarat was preferred for formulating and implementing the project because of its better IT infrastructure in judicial process.

Inspector General of Police (Prisons) Keshav Kumar and Joint Commissioner of Police (Ahmedabad City) H P Singh said,the e-court will be quite economical. It would not only save expenditure on to and fro transportation of undertrials to the court,but also save the precious time of policemen required to appear in court in certain cases,they said.

Besides,it would also prevent hardened criminals from escaping,as they would no longer be required to be physically produced in court.

Kumar said video-conferencing was first introduced in 2004 at the Sabarmati Central Jail and later extended to five other jails. Between 2004 and January 2009,a total of 23,223 undertrials were produced in court through video-conferencing,and over Rs 89.34 lakh were saved. About 250 to 300 prisoners are taken to the court daily from the Sabarmati jail with over 300 policemen as escort in 40 vehicles. Singh said this saves at least 2,400 man-hours per day.

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