Indian courts virtually evolving


Historically, pandemics have forced societies to break away from the past and adopt new measures that redefine their future, and the outbreak of COVID-19 is no different. Indian courts have scaled down conventional operations within court precincts, and are allowing the judicial system to function through video-conferencing technologies. The aim is to ensure continual delivery of, and access to, justice. This move enables courts to enhance their speed, transparency, accessibility and accountability in dispensing justice in diverse settings and situations, without compromising the core legal principles of adjudication.

The use of such technology received judicial recognition in the case of State of Maharashtra v Praful Desai (2003), where the Supreme Court held that the term “evidence” included electronic evidence and video-conferencing that may be used to record evidence. The court further held that recording of such evidence would be as per “procedure established by law”.

The Supreme Court on 16 May issued the standard operating procedure (SOP) for advocates and petitioners for e-filing, mentioning, listing and hearings of matters through video-conferencing. The Chief Justice of India directed court benches to hear cases from 18 May to 19 June 2020 through video-conferencing only. The SOP also provides step-by-step instructions for communicating with the courts through video-conferencing on the VIDYO platform, hosted on the servers of the National Data Centre of the National Informatics Centre.

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