Policy Watch No.14

The Supreme Court of India's Vision for e-Courts: The Need to Retain Justice as a Public Service

Disruptions, at times, become catalysts for initiating change. Although India’s journey to create digital infrastructure to deliver justice commenced before the outbreak of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the pandemic hastened the pace of the country’s judicial system going online.

In this Policy Watch, legal researchers, Siddharth Peter de Souza, Varsha Aithala and Srishti John, discuss some fundamental issues that emerge from India’s plans to move towards e-Courts. This digitalised mode of delivering justice enabled courts to function with some capacity during the multiple lockdowns in India since March 2020.  While the authors recognise the value of e-Courts, they argue that unless the digitalisation efforts factor in considerations of equity and inclusion for users, the outcomes would remain hollow and divorced from India’s socio-political reality.   

The Supreme Court of India recently placed a draft of its Vision Document for e-Courts for public discussion until May 31, 2021.  Drawing from this document, the authors critically evaluate India’s approach towards electronic dispensation of justice, highlight conceptual issues relating to delivery of justice as a service that need to be addressed.  They call for a fundamental rethink of the vision for e-Courts to ensure that the delivery of justice remains in the domain of public service.

The aim of this Policy Watch is to highlight the implications of widening the range of players involved in the process of justice delivery by commodifying it without adequate scrutiny or accountability.  Understanding these implications is important to bring about corrective action that will ensure that the administration of justice remains equally accessible and accountable to all.
 

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Related Resources:

1. Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India. 2015. Evaluation Study of eCourts Integrated Mission Mode Project, National Council of Applied Economic Research. [https://doj.gov.in/sites/default/files/Report-of-Evaluation-eCourts.pdf].

2. e-Committee, Supreme Court of India. Rules on Live-Streaming and Recording of Court Proceedings. [https://tinyurl.com/3rphrrvw].

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