The vision of transforming India into ‘Digital India’ aims to produce a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. In pursuit of that, the government of India has taken up a wide range of initiatives to digitally empower its citizens. However, for a society to truly feel empowered, it should be able to exercise rights and keep faith in the Judiciary, which operates via the courts. This kind of faith is garnered through transparency, easy access to information and via citizens who are aware of their rights and the laws of the land. With issues like a massive backlog of cases and the use of legacy systems to manage and resolve them ailing the judicial system, the aim to achieve a truly empowered society seems like a distant dream.
The courts in India are burdened with a large number of pending cases and a whopping number of new cases are being fed into the system every day. Court proceedings, being a document-intensive workflow, generate a huge number of documents. These combined with millions of documents stemming from the pending and closed cases, makes managing them a herculean task requiring an immense amount of time and human resource. There are a plethora of problems that citizens face while trying to access these documents or while conversing with courts regarding case proceedings. Citizens face these problems mostly because of manual processes involved at all levels, like:
- Manual paper-based case filing & proceedings
- Legacy systems of communication between courts and parties involved in a case
- Lack of case status tracking mechanism creates high dependency on lawyers and other middlemen
- Linking of old cases and cases from lower courts
- Lack of lawyer database for petitioners to choose the correct litigators
- Physical and manual archival of case records
The issue of delayed justice in India is due to low Judge to citizen ratio combined with a large number of positions being vacant across different courts in India, as well as lack of proper infrastructural support to deal with the rising number of pending cases. It is nearly impossible for the judiciary to clear off such a humongous number of pending cases with the small number of judges and manual-intensive infrastructure currently available.
This dependency upon manual processes at each level leads to delayed information flow, lack of knowledge for the petitioner/respondents, and lower productivity of courts which further results in decreased transparency and increased citizen suffering. While filling the vacant positions and meeting the requirement for judges in courts across India is a long-term process and includes policy changes, adopting automation will increase the productivity of the current judicial system.
Apart from that, the evolving use of digital and automation technology across various citizen-centric services in both private and government sectors brings with it the expectation of digitally enabled courts which provide a more transparent and efficient judicial system.
In order to address these challenges, E-courts is the initiative we need. The initiative has been taken up by the Government of India, under Digital India mission, aimed towards digitally empowering the citizens and the Courts. Through this initiative, the government is focusing on transparency and speed in judiciary proceedings, by ensuring all necessary knowledge and information is at the citizens’ fingertips.
Automation and digital enablement of courts tend to ease a number of processes for both courts and citizens, namely:
- Court case records management: Archival of all case related content, past judgements, investigations and other documents in their digital form, within a centralized repository. A right based access with search capabilities would provide easy and secure access to the case related information to the courts and parties involved.
- E-filing and e-diary: Allows litigants and advocates to file a case online from the comfort of their homes, auto-routes submitted documents to the registration clerk who validates them, and allows stakeholders to check real-time status with the case number. It also enables an advocate to save records related to his/her case, and browse through real-time case information along with the judgement and orders passed by the courts.
- CCM-Citizen Communication Management: Enables courts to manage high volume citizen-driven communications through multiple channels like SMS, E-Mails, Print Copies, Self-Service Online Portals, Mobile Apps and kiosks installed in courts. The communication can be secured by using out of the box security features, such as digital signatures, rule-driven password protection, bar codes, QR codes and watermarks, with comprehensive tracking capabilities.
- Case Management: Enables rules-driven case routing and auto-assigning of cases based on the skill matrix. Allows courts to leverage analytical capabilities and extensive dashboards to make informed and faster decisions. Timeline tracking of the case with daily court calendar enables monitoring, via alerts and notifications of court hearing dates and cause list information.
With the advancement of technology in the last decade, courts are faced with an added responsibility of not just managing cases, but also analyzing digital evidence and witness testimony. Cases nowadays involve mobile data, email accounts, social media content, bank account transactions, and audio and video footage. Proper storage and archiving of this content with quick retrieval when needed calls for an Enterprise Content Management System.Adopting these digital and automation technologies would establish a system where all the courts in a state and in India would be connected to each other and with other organizations