District, Subordinate Courts Held Over 11.93 Lakh E-Hearings During Lockdown
A gavel sits on a stage. (Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

District, Subordinate Courts Held Over 11.93 Lakh E-Hearings During Lockdown

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District and subordinate courts across the country held over 11.93 lakh hearings through videoconferencing between March 24 and July 15 during the lockdown period, the government informed Parliament on Thursday.

In a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha, Union Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad said video conference equipment has been provided to all court complexes, including taluk-level court complexes in rural areas, under the Phase II of the e-courts project for virtual hearings.

To further augment the videoconferencing infrastructure, the e-committee of the Supreme Court has approved provision of equipment to 14,443 courtrooms in these court complexes, he said.

"As per information available, the number of hearings done by video conferencing from March 24, 2020 till July 15, 2020 by the district and subordinate courts across the country were 11,93,046," Prasad said.

He said the government is implementing the e-Courts Mission Mode Project for Information and Communication Technology enablement for district and subordinate courts across the country in association with the e-committee of the Supreme Court.

The implementation of Phase-II of the eCourts Mission Mode Project commenced in 2015 and the target of computerisation of 16,845 district and subordinate courts has been completed, he added.

The minister said against the financial outlay of Rs 1,670 crore for this phase, the government has released a sum of Rs 1,424 crore so far to various organisations involved in the implementation of the project.

"With a view to handle the Covid-19 challenges better and to make the transition to Virtual Court hearings in rural areas smoother, funds have been allocated by the Department of Justice recently under eCourts Project Phase II for creating additional infrastructure in the court complexes," he said.

Prasad said the government has allocated Rs 12.54 crore for 235 e-Sewa Kendras at court complexes to facilitate lawyers and litigants needing assistance regarding case status, getting judgements, court or case-related information and e-filing facilities.

He said Rs 5.01 crore has been allocated for providing equipment in videoconferencing cabins in various court complexes to facilitate virtual hearings.

He added Rs 12.12 crore has been allocated for 1,732 help desk counters for e-filing in various court complexes.

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A new and user-friendly version of the Case Information Software has been developed and deployed at all computerised district and subordinate courts, Prasad said.

All stakeholders including judicial officers can access information relating to judicial procedures or decisions of computerised district and subordinate courts and high courts on the National Judicial Data Grid, he said.

"Currently, case status information in respect of 13.72 crore pending and disposed cases and more than 12.67 crore orders/judgements pertaining to these computerised courts is available on NJDG," he said.

The e-court services provide citizen-centric services through seven platforms viz. eCourts Web Portal, eCourts Mobile App, e-Mail Service, SMS Push and Pull Services, Judicial Service Centres and Touch Screen Information Kiosks, the minister said.

The e-court services provide details of case registration, cause list, case status, daily orders and final judgement, etc, he said.

Also read: Consider Regulating Digital Media First, Government Tells Supreme Court

"A Sub-Committee consisting of five Judges of the High Courts was constituted by the Chairperson, e-Committee for drafting model rules of Video Conferencing for courts and has been circulated to all the High Courts for their adoption," Prasad said.

"Similarly, a Sub-Committee consisting of five Judges of the High Courts was constituted to draft model E-Filing Rules during May 2020 which have been circulated to all High Courts for their adoption," he said.

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