The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances. Law and Justice has recommended that virtual courts, set up in view of Covid-19, should continue to function even after the pandemic, saying “digital justice is cheaper and faster” and would address “locational and economic handicap”.
The panel, led by BJP MP Bhupender Yadav, is of the view that the court is “more a service than a place” and that advocates must “keep up with the changing times” as technology will “emerge as a game changer”.
This was the first report to be presented by any Parliamentary panel on the impacts of Covid-19. Yadav submitted the report to Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday.
“The parliamentary panel strongly pitched for virtual courts stating that digital justice is cheaper and faster besides addressing locational and economic handicaps; ensures safety of vulnerable witnesses providing testimony; expedites processes and procedures and are an improvement over traditional Courts as they are most affordable, citizen friendly and offers greater access to justice,” Yadav said in a press note.
The committee recommended the Ministry of Electronics and IT to employ globally tried and tested tools to make virtual hearings more life-like and engaging. It also recommended computer curriculum in law courses.
The panel stated in its report that the digital transformation of the judiciary has important implications for clearing the significant backlog of cases the judiciary is burdened with. “Technology may, in fact, be a catalyst for simplifying processes and making manual process redundant. It will make justice accessible and affordable to a large section of the population and help in overcoming physical and logistical barriers which prevent many litigants from seeking justice,” the committee noted.
The report said the committee fully understands that virtual courts have shortcomings, but they are an “advancement over the existing system”. It pointed out that if the international arbitration is allowed to be conducted digitally, there will be “hardly any requirements for real time travel to distant locations” which will make proceedings less expensive.
The report said “transfer of certain categories of cases from regular Court establishments to Virtual Courts will reduce the pendency of cases which has been clogging the wheels of Justice for decades”.
It added that to begin with, the judiciary may identify categories of cases that can be tried by virtual courts. The report pointed out that the Department of Justice had suggested that traffic challan cases, petty offences where summons can be issued under Section 206 of CrPC., cases under section 138 of Negotiable Instruments Act and Motor Accident Claim Petition cases can be allotted to virtual courts.
The committee opined that “all such matters where personal presence may be dispensed with, can be transferred” to virtual courts.
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