Information and communication technology (ICT) has many beneficial purposes that can be effectively used for legal and judicial purposes around the world. However, use of ICT for legal and judicial purposes is still evolving around the world and India has also taken few good steps in this regard. Nevertheless, the goal of legal enablement of ICT systems in India is still a distant dream and Indian government and judiciary has to work really hard to achieve that goal. For instance, establishment of e-courts in India has to address many techno legal challenges that are daunting in nature. Mere data gathering and analysis in itself is a big task that requires many techno legal compliance and efforts on the part of judicial ICT infrastructure.
At the apex level we have the e-committee of the Supreme Court of India that lays down policies and strategies regarding legal enablement of ICT systems in India and judicial technology infrastructure. E-committee is also managing the e-courts project of India and some very significant steps have already been taken by the e-committee in this regard. For instance, the second phase of the e-courts project of India is already under progress and it may be finished in coming years.
A very significant initiative of the e-committee is the establishment of the national judicial data grid (NJDG) of India. NJDG would help in gathering, consolidation and analysis of district-wise pending cases so that necessary action can be taken in this regard. Indian judiciary is facing mammoth backlog of cases and most of them can be easily disposed of using alternative dispute resolution (ADR), online dispute resolution (ODR), e-courts and other mechanisms. For instance, consider the simple Online Disputes Resolution & Cyber Arbitration Portal of TLCEODRI where ODR is used to resolve dispute of national and international stakeholders. If we look at the scope and ambit of services provided by this portal, it is obvious that it can take off a significant load of backlog of cases from Indian courts. Such simple and effective dispute resolution mechanisms must be developed by Indian government and Indian judiciary to reduce unnecessary burden upon Indian courts.
The National Judicial Data Grid can be a good starting point in this regard as NJDG is a part of the on-going e-courts Integrated Mission Mode Project. NJDG will work as a monitoring tool to identify, manage and reduce pendency of cases. It will also help to provide timely inputs for making policy decisions to reduce delay and arrears in the system, facilitate better monitoring of court performance and systemic bottlenecks, and, thus, facilitate better resource management. The NJDG is covering all categories of cases, including those relating to juvenile justice system.
One of the key benefits of computerisation of courts is the automation of case management. An online legal case management system (OLCMS) can be a really handy tool in the hands of Indian government to formulate judicial policies. As all courts are to be linked to be part of a National Judicial Data Grid, this would result in the creation of a National Arrears Grid. Citizens will also be able to avail services through a Judicial Service Centre at every court complex. These would include filing of cases, availability of certified copies of orders and judgments, information about case status etc.
However, presuming the NJDG to be a technology aspect alone would be a big mistake. NJDG would raise complicated techno legal issues in future. These include issues pertaining to privacy protection, data security and data protection, cyber security, cyber law due diligence, etc. It is not feasible to list all these issues in this article but the list is going to increase from time to time.
India has also embraced projects like national e-governance plan (NEGP) and digital India that is working in the direction of making legal and judicial functioning digital. Further, use of Internet of things (IoT), smart cities, cloud computing, etc would add further complexities to the equation.
Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) has been managing the exclusive Techno Legal Centre of Excellence for E-Courts in India (TLCOEECI). This initiative is supported by other techno legal initiatives of Perry4Law Organisation (P4LO) and Perry4Law’s Techno Legal Base (PTLB). We believe that working in association with Indian government and Indian judiciary; we can truly achieve legal enablement of ICT systems in India under NEGP and digital India projects.