Judicial Institutions Must Drop Resistance to Adoption of New Technology: Judge DY Chandrachud
Judge D.Y. Chandrachudwhile calling himself “self-confessed tech geekdelivered a speech on the importance of technology in the justice system at the farewell ceremony of the first meeting of District Legal Service Authorities from all over India.
On the importance of embracing technology in court processes, Justice Chandrachud said that the Supreme Court, High Courts and District Courts had been very reluctant to use modern means of communication, including Twitter and the telegram channel. While emphasizing the need to change the same, he said that–
“This resistance on our part to using the means of communication must change. We can reach our citizens using the language of speech, which is becoming so prevalent in society. If we, as judicial institutions, did not get rid of this resistance to the adoption of the means of communication that are so prevalent in our society, we would have lost the game…we are already losing the game if we don’t get rid of this fear of what would happen if we use modern means of communication.“
Justice Chandracud also addressed the judges’ reservations about adopting live streaming of their proceedings. He stated that –
“All the judges think what will happen when I start live streaming my court proceedings? Will people start rating us? Are we going to lose the sense of respect for the community? Yes, of course, some of us will lose the respect of the community. But we’ll lose the respect of the community by showing the world how we behave when we’re sitting there on the slides. We need to change our ways of working. There is a whole world of responsibility and I think we can earn the respect of the community at large, provided we embrace and access the platforms that are so prevalent in our society. The judicial system cannot be left behind. We must be the precursors of change.“
In his remarks, he stressed the need to “institutionalize processes” and to put systems and processes in place in such a way as to treat all cases uniformly, regardless of the parties in the dispute, the police station reported or the forensic laboratory involved in the process. He further stated that it was also important to create a sense of responsibility among decision makers themselves and to monitor implementation. Ultimately, Justice Chandrachud said the goal was to improve quality, transparency and access to justice.
While emphasizing the importance of technology, he also underlined the limitations of technology stating that although we have 500 million smartphone users in India, at the other end of the spectrum we also have 800 million of people who do not have access to smartphones. Thus, he affirmed that it is up to 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 judicial system. He said that the heart of the e-courts project was the “Business Information Software (CIS)”. He said the integration of CIS with NALSA and the District Legal Services Authority would make court records, convict and pending trial information, jail petitions, appeals, status of litigation in progress, among others, with the authorities of the legal services. He further clarified the same by stating that –
“What we need to foresee is not that the prisons make the data available to the judicial authorities, but that the judicial institutions can themselves retrieve the data without the intervention of any state actor. In technological terms, the solution is very simple, you use what are called APIs – Application Programming Interfaces. So once an API is available for NALSA or for the District/State Legal Services Authority, you can retrieve every piece of information from the CIS that maps the current cases crore database and tuned, then you can really design your solutions.”
Judge Chandrachud also said that the e-prison software, developed by the Ministry of Interior in conjunction with the National Informatics Center, had also provided a mechanism to share data of inmates on trial. He said the design process to develop an appropriate mechanism to retain prisoners’ data under trial, including the date of imprisonment, the act under which the arrest took place, the section as well as the imprisonment maximum provided for offences, etc. was in progress. He pointed out that they are also in the process of designing an alert mechanism for the judge regarding the status of sub-trials, including information on which sub-trials have undergone the maximum period of imprisonment.
While emphasizing the importance of using technology to “talk to each other,” he said that–
“We don’t have to talk to each other in person, but we need to use technology to connect our institutions so that those who need justice do not have access to us, but that we provide access to all people who need justice.”
He said NALSA and District Legal Services authorities would benefit greatly from monitoring the status of convicts through the use of data from the National Court Data Grid. Among the convict monitoring systems currently being developed in the national judicial data grid, is the list of convicts housed in the various prisons under the jurisdiction of the respective High Courts and District Courts. He said a very important facet of this was training and outreach programs for both citizens and advocates through the DLSA and TLSA.
While calling on everyone to participate in these programs, he said that–
“We have schedules and our schedule accounts for quarterly district-level e-Court programs at all district headquarters through DLSAs, quarterly Taluka-level e-Court programs at all Taluk levels through TLSAs and village-level e-court programs in 10 villages in each Taluk across the TLSA for ordinary citizens. We have special e-Court awareness programs for DLSAs, paralegal volunteers and panel lawyers and special campaigns for lawyers at Taluka level and e-Court awareness programs at Taluk and village levels.“
He concluded his talk by saying that much of the work done in the field of human interface needed to be institutionalized.