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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Explained: Gujarat HC’s ‘Justice Clock’ and other digital initiatives

The Justice Clock will exhibit vital statistics of the justice delivery system in Gujarat, to 'maximise outreach and visibility'.

Written by Sohini Ghosh , Edited by Explained Desk | Ahmedabad |
Updated: January 21, 2022 9:42:21 am
Justice Clock gujarat HC, what is Justice Clock, express explained, indian expressJustice Clock: An LED display of 7 feet by 10 feet, placed at a height of 17 feet from the ground, has been erected at a busy crossroad near the Gujarat High Court premises. (Express photo)

Supreme Court e-Committee chairperson and SC judge Justice DY Chandrachud on Monday inaugurated two digital services for Gujarat High Court — a ‘Justice Clock’, and electronic payment of court fee.

What is the ‘Justice Clock’ ?

An LED display of 7 feet by 10 feet, placed at a height of 17 feet from the ground, has been erected at a busy crossroad near the Gujarat High Court premises. This ‘Justice Clock’ will exhibit vital statistics of the justice delivery system in Gujarat, to “maximise outreach and visibility” of the work done by the state judiciary.

The interface has been designed and developed in-house and will display data from the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) in real-time. A similar format of Gujarat judiciary-related statistics will also be available on the Gujarat HC website under a tab of ‘Virtual Justice Clock’, accessible to all.

While the data is already publicly accessible on NJDG’s website, with an option to further distil the statistics district-wise, this new initiative — through the physical LED display as well as the virtual justice clock — is aimed at greater accessibility and transparency.

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According to Gujarat HC Chief Justice Aravind Kumar, “one of the crucial aspects” covered in the content of Justice Clock is the case clearance rate (CCR) for current date, last date, last week, last month, this year and last year. “This CCR is kind of a goal which we will set ourselves and we shall strive hard to achieve 100%, where disposal matches the institution (of cases),” said Chief Justice Kumar during the virtual inaugural function of the facility.

What is e-court fee and how will it help?

While the online e-Courts fee system was already available for the Gujarat High Court, which was tested on a pilot basis allowing advocate and parties to procure judicial stamps online through electronic payment and upon submission of a PDF receipt, this platform now stands expanded to all district and taluka courts.

The payment platform is of StockHolding Corporation of India Ltd (SHCIL) as empanelled by the Gujarat government. A PDF receipt of the fee paid will be generated and submitted to the court registry concerned. It will then be verified from within the digital case information system and locked as ‘consumed’, wherein the receipt will be defaced, so as to avoid its reuse or misuse.

Why the two initiatives?

The two digital initiatives add to a slew of other digital measures the Gujarat HC has undertaken to cope with Covid-19. As Justice DY Chandrachud has often emphasised, digital transformation brings in transparency and openness in court proceedings and also provides a glimpse to the public at large of how judges function. One such measure of bringing courtrooms to every device was the initiation of the live streaming of Gujarat HC proceedings.

On Monday, highlighting the purpose of the ‘Justice Clock’, Justice Chandrachud said, “Let there be no doubt about it that all these measures are now bringing focus on judges, how we conduct ourselves, how long we sit in courts, the seriousness with which courts are handled and cases are conducted, the courtesy which judges show to members of the bar and litigants, particularly those lawyers who are not among the higher echelons in the hierarchy of the bar.”

Facilitating electronic payment of court fee becomes essential especially in light of Covid, when physical entry of advocates and litigants have been restricted inside the premises. With electronic payment, the need to physically procure judicial stamp papers and submission of fee is done away with. As Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association president Asim Pandya pointed out, the experience of advocates in paying court fee through the traditional judicial stamp papers “was not very satisfactory”.

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Are there any concerns with these initiatives?

While the initiative of electronic payment of court fee has seen unilateral support across the Bar, about the the ‘Judicial Clock’, Gujarat High Court Advocates Association president Asim Pandya, while lauding the effort for bringing in “transparency”, expressed a concern that “in the zeal to show higher disposal of cases to the public,” let justice not be “sacrificed”.

Speaking at the inaugural event, Pandya said that while “quick disposal of cases is good, but justice is better”, adding that ‘justice’ is the heart and soul of every judicial system. “I am a little averse to the word ‘disposal of cases’. We usually dispose of things that are not wanted. Cases are to be decided and not to be disposed of. In my personal view, it would be more appropriate if the justice clock uses the phrase ‘cases decided’ rather than ‘cases disposed of,” said Pandya.

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