e-Courts Project: Analysis – UPSC GS2

Utility: Direct question can be asked on digitisation of judiciary, delays in judiciary, reforms etc.
e-Courts Project:
  • It is an Integrated Mission Mode Project under implementation since 2007 as part of National e-Governance Plan.
  • The project is based on the National Policy and Action Plan for Implementation of Information and Communication Technology in Judiciary-2005.
  • It was conceptualized with a vision to transform the Indian Judiciary by ICT (Information and Communication Technology) enablement of Courts.
  • It is a pan-India Project, monitored and funded by the Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, for the District Courts across the country.
Need of digitising Indian Judiciary:
  • Faster justice delivery.
  • Clearing pendency which is around 3.27 crore cases before Indian courts. Of which 85,000 have been pending for over 30 years as of June 2020 as per the e-Committee.
  • Reduce long delays and difficulties for ordinary litigants.
  • Building people’s trust in the judiciary.
Salient features of the e-Courts project:
  • Phases I and II had dealt with the digitisation of the judiciary:
    • e-filing, tracking cases online
    • uploading judgments online.
  • Draft vision document for Phase III of the e-Courts project aims for:
    • Digitisation of court processes
    • Upgrade the electronic infrastructure of the judiciary.
    • Enable access to lawyers and litigants.
    • Seamless exchange of information between various branches of the State. Such as between the judiciary, the police and the prison systems through the Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS).
What are the key benefits of the e-Courts project?
  • Phase II of the project helped in the development of the National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes which enabled the delivery of e-summons.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court and High Courts have been able to function online.
Examples of Use of Technology in Judiciary?
  • Virtual Hearing: Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of technology for e-filing, and virtual hearings has seen a dramatic rise.
  • SUVAS (Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software): It is an AI system that can assist in the translation of judgments into regional languages.
  • SUPACE (Supreme Court Portal for Assistance in Court Efficiency):
    • It was recently launched by the Supreme Court of India.
    • Designed to first understand judicial processes that require automation, it then assists the Court in improving efficiency and reducing pendency by encapsulating judicial processes that have the capability of being automated through AI.
What are the concerns associated with the e-court project?
  • Data theft: Large-scale gathering and sharing of data with no data protection regime present in India may cause data theft, cybersecurity issues and online harassment.
  • Targeted Surveillance:
    • Localised data will be centralised by the Ministry of home affairs.
    • Creation of a 360-degree profile of each person by integrating all of their interactions with government agencies into a unified database.
    • This approach is used by social media platforms and technology companies for targeted advertisement, but data collection by the government may end up as “targeted surveillance”.
Way forward:
  • Supreme Court need to ensure that the e-courts project does not violate the privacy standards that it set in Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017).
  • Digital Technology can play a huge role in the faster delivery of justice. However, the privacy and fundamental rights of citizens need to be protected as the technology is only a means, not an end in itself.