The Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Sunday (May 10th, 2020) declared that court proceedings through video conferencing may remain a norm for some time to come in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 1,282 advocates had registered for e-filling of petitions during the lockdown, in response to which the Law Minister confirmed the said move.
In a first of its kind virtual meeting headed by Attorney General KK Venugopal, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and the Law Ministry Officials, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and some law officers laid importance and emphasis on the need to accept and take this challenge as an opportunity to make digital systems in justice delivery more robust and practical. The meeting was also attended by all Additional Solicitors General and Assistant Solicitors General, Secretary of Department of Legal Affairs and Secretary of Department of Justice. It was contended and stated that “In view of the seriousness of the pandemic, court proceedings through video conferencing may remain a norm for some time to come.”
A statement released by the Law Ministry read as “The Attorney General and many other law officers laid emphasis on the need to strengthen the e-courts system by addressing the connectivity issues and by training lawyers in e-courts management.” The Law Minister further asked the justice secretary to bring these challenges before the committee and come in coordination with the National Informatics Centre and to improve the system. The release also stated that “As many as 1,282 advocates have registered for e-filling of petitions during the lockdown, of which 543 advocates have registered in the last week alone.” The Law Minister further citing a flurry of PIL’s in various courts during this lockdown held that in these challenging times overzealous PILs need to be avoided and “Though one cannot stop anyone from filing cases, there must be an effective response to these types of intervention.” The Supreme Court had also flagged a similar concern that the concept of PIL has been forgotten. The Law Ministry further emphasized that “addressing such a serious pandemic that throws up complicated and sensitive nature of challenges, which the governance system has responded to and that it would be appropriate that this decision-making process of the Centre and State governments needs to be trusted.