Virtual Hearings During the Pandemic

The Pandemic has hit the World in the most unexpected way. Just as food, clothing and Shelter is essential, it is also important that Justice is Delivered on time. You cannot wait for the pandemic to end so that the Justice system may also resume. The Pandemic has not only brought out the best amongst people, but it has also brought out the worst amongst Human Beings. There has been steep increase in the cases related to Domestic Violence against Women and Children.

We live in the digital era and every second matters to us. Given the present scenario, it would be next to impossible to shut down every industry or every system forever. It was mandatory that we found a solution for our growth and welfare of the Community at large. Every Sector, every Industry, Every Individual, strived hard to find alternative to function during this Pandemic, while maintaining Social Distancing and reducing the need for Physical Social Interaction.

One such solution was Work from Home. All over the World, every Industry, tried their level best to Work from Home. Basic Internet Connection and Light Weight Laptops ensured that the work continued irrespective of the Pandemic. But there were some professionals, who did not have an option to work from home such as Doctors, Policemen, Farmers, Fire Fighters, Farmers etc.

How the Indian Courts dealt with the Pandemic.

From the beginning, it is an open book fact that the Indian courts have been under pressure, owing to the number of cases that are pending before the Court. This Global outbreak has doubled up the bad situation into the worst. The Judiciary therefore decided to conduct Court Proceedings through Virtual Courtrooms instead of Physical Court Rooms. The effect of COVID-19 on Indian Courts has delayed the hearings of all the cases but just like every professionals even the Judiciary is trying its best to adapt to the situation. Presently, just like the whole nation, even the law protectors are appearing on virtual conference platforms with a speed of 100 Mbps with the ultimate goal of providing justice to the Common Man.

The Courts have decided to address only urgent matters and have incorporated some basic guidelines, which they are following to maintain the decorum of the courtroom. The minimum requisites for the video conference include a desktop or laptop with good internet connectivity, video camera, document visualizer, etc. which have been made necessary. The procedures, putting up documents, proceedings are almost the same but simple add on’s have been made to it.

Nationwide every court of India is following the same guidelines right from the Apex of India i.e. the Supreme Court of India to the Courts at District level as well. Just like every other step, Virtual courts too have its pros and cons. The situation is tough for those living in the remote areas, as the Internet Connectivity is slower and unfortunately in most places, they barely have one Desktop or Laptop in a house. Though this is a good way to continue delivering Justice, but the Judiciary is also coming across some challenges.

Introduction

In the present-day scenario, video conferencing is a mere step taken up in resolving any issues. People, at this point, are attending the videoconferences and resolving the issues by sitting even in different countries. The most recent examples are International Arbitrations. So, the Supreme Court of India taking all these points in these unsettling times, have paved a new way of making Justice available by simply sitting at their homes which means from now onwards the courts shall be hearing cases from an online mode. From the 24th March 2020, Courts in India have started continuing to the virtual court system. Currently, the Court is working out from the concept of four walls procedure to working from the concept.

Is It For The First Time?

Now, the question arises, is this the first time when SC is trying with video conferencing? The answer is no. While allowing a transfer petition in 2014, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court observed to hold a video conferencing facility as both the parties were located out of the same court’s jurisdiction to hold the proceedings. Later the judgment was held overruled in case of Veni Nigam’s case[1]. But later, Justice Chandrachud highlighted the major pros and cons of the video conferencing and making it clear that it was not outside the purview of the Family Courts Act[2].

Furthermore, the Santhini’s case [3]judgement dissuaded the adopting the virtual (video) hearings, particularly at reconciliation’s stage. But presently at COVID-19 times, the adoption of video conferencing was the only step towards minimizing the court’s pressure.

Current Situation

The Indian courts presently are hearing only urgent matters via video conferencing whereas the e-filing facility is provided for each type of matter. The E-filing facility was provided by the Courts way back in the year 2010 but barely anybody tried to use the facility. The Court has already planned the systematic way of resolving and getting urgent matters. Further, the regular filings are also being implemented. Looking into both the matters, the Supreme Court of India warrants that the court of apex provided the best software at providing the facility but even if so due to some technical issues if problems are occurring those are getting resolved by calling up the e-filing helpline at present.

Conclusion

The option of video conferencing hearing must be available even after the pandemic times get resolved it would be suggested if the virtual platform still gets continued as concerning demerits the platform has much more merits in comparison. Right from the clients’ expenses getting shortened up, their time isn’t wasted in traveling. Not even that the witnesses whose lives are at stake can record their statements and can be presented in the courts which is why the unsecured worries are reducing up and also it saves the court times.

The virtual platform will make the law protectors in looking into the matters were they are facing difficulties. The online platform is considered to be much more transparent as the medium of corruption is hard to follow. Every medium has its pros and cons but I’m with an opinion if the pros level is higher than we must try to resolve the cons that the courts are facing so that the so-called tag of pressure on the Indian courts is removed. The local matters could be dealt with virtually so that the courts can look into more core matters and fairly work for the society rather than delaying the justice.


[1] Krishna Veni Nagam V. Harish Nigam , 4 SCC 150 (2017)

[2] Ejaz Maqbool, Akriti Chaubey & Mohammad Isa Hakim, The Supreme Court is online: Pros, cons and the way forward for hearings by video conferencing, Bar And Bench, Apr 20, 2020.

[3] Santhini V.Vijaya Venketesh, 1 SCC 1 (2018)

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