November 28, 2023

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, while referring to himself as a “self confessed geek on technology” delivered an address on the importance of technology in the judicial system at the Valedictory Ceremony of 1st All India District Legal Services Authorities Meet.

On the importance of adopting technology in judicial processes, Justice Chandrachud stated that the Supreme Court, the High Courts and the District courts had been very reticent on the use of modern means of communication including Twitter and the telegram channel. While highlighting the need to change the same, he stated that–

This resistance of us to use means of communication has to change. We can reach out to our citizens by using the language of discourse, which is becoming so prevalent in society. Unless we as judicial institutions shed this resistance to adopting the means of communication which is so widespread in our society, we would have lost the game…we are already in the process of losing the game unless we shed this fear of what would happen if we use modern means of communication.

Justice Chandrachud also addressed the reservation judges had against the adoption of live streaming their proceedings. He stated that –

Judges across the board feel that what will happen when I start live streaming my court proceedings? Will people start assessing us? Will we lose the sense of respect of the community? Yes, of course, some of us will lose the respect of the community. But we will lose the respect of the community by showing the world at large how we conduct ourselves when we sit there on the dias. We have to change the ways in which we have been functioning. There is a world of accountability at large and I think, we can earn the respect of the community at large, provided that we adopt and come on to the platforms which are so prevalent in our society. The judicial system cannot be left behind. We have to be the harbingers of change.

Through the address, he highlighted the need to ‘institutionalise processes’ and set up systems and processes in a manner which treats uniformly all cases regardless of the parties to the dispute, the police station reported to or that forensic science laboratory involved in the process. He further stated that it was also important to bring about a sense of accountability for the decision-makers themselves and monitor implementation. Ultimately, Justice Chandrachud said that the object was to enhance quality, transparency and access to justice.

While emphasising upon the importance of technology, he also highlighted the limitation of technology by stating that even though we have 500 million smartphone users in India, on the other end of the spectrum, we also have 800 million people who have no access to smartphones. Thus, he stated that it was up to the institutions to provide access to justice to individuals.

While explaining the role of technology in ensuring access to justice, he spoke about the current mechanism adopted by the Indian judiciary. He stated that the core of the e-courts project was the ‘Case Information Software (CIS)’. He stated that the integration of the CIS with NALSA and the District Legal Services Authority would instantly make available court records, information of convicts and undertrials, jail petitions, appeals, status of under trials among other things to legal services authorities. He further elaborated upon the same by stating that-

What we need to plan on is not that prisons should make available data to the legal services authorities but that the legal services institutions must themselves be able to retrieve the data without the intervention of any state actor. In technological terms the solution is very simple, you use what are called as APIs- Application Programming Interfaces. So that once an API is available to NALSA or to the District/State legal services authority, you can retrieve every element of the information from the CIS which maps database of crores of cases pending and disposed off and then you can really design your solutions.”

Justice Chandrachud also stated that the e-prison software, been developed by the Ministry of Home Affairs in conjunction with the National Informatics Centre had also provided a mechanism to share the data of under trial prisoners. He stated that the process of designing to develop a proper mechanism to maintain under trial prisoners data including the date of imprisonment, the act under which the arrest has taken place, the section along with the maximum imprisonment provided for the offences etc was going on. He highlighted that they were also in the process of designing an alert mechanism for the judge regarding the status of undertrials including information about undertrials who have undergone the maximum period of imprisonment.

While highlighting the importance of using technology to ‘talk to each other’, he stated that–

We don’t have to talk to each other in person but we have to use technology to link up our institutions so that those who are in need of justice do not have to access us, but that we provide access to all the people who are in need of justice.”

He stated that the NALSA and the District Legal Services Authorities will benefit greatly by monitoring the status of convicts with the use of data on the National Judicial Data Grid. Among the facilities for monitoring convicts being developed in the national judicial data grid, is the list of convicts lodged in various prisons under the jurisdiction of the respective High Courts and District courts. He stated that a very important facet of this was training and outreach programs both for citizens and advocates through the DLSA and the TLSA.

While appealing to everyone to participate in these programs, he stated that–

We have calendars and our calendar accounts for District Level Quarterly e-courts programs at all district headquarters through the DLSAs, Taluka Level Quarterly e-courts programs at all Taluk levels through the TLSAs, and Village Level e-courts programs at 10 villages in each Taluk through the TLSA for common citizens. We have special e-courts awareness programs for the DLSAs, the paralegal volunteers, and panel lawyers and special drives for Taluka level advocates and e-court awareness programs at the Taluk and village levels.

He concluded his address by saying that much of the work that was done in the area of human interface needed to be institutionalised.

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