The E-Committee of the Supreme Court assembled through video conferencing in the morning to ensure that urgent matters are heard promptly during the period of the lockdown occasioned by the outbreak of Covid - 19 and that parties are not required to come to court for other cases listed for hearing.
After reviewing the measures which have been initiated by the High Courts in their respective jurisdictions, and noting the difficulties faced by some states in e-filing, in the operation of virtual courts and in the course of hearing cases through video conferencing, the Chairperson, Dr. Justice Chandrachud proposed that a meeting of the Chairpersons of the Computer committees of the High Courts be organised at 4 pm.
After incorporating suggestions from the High Courts, the following agenda for the meeting was drawn up:
- Ensuring that the lockdown does not affect the hearing of urgent matters in all courts across the country by:
- Enabling e-filing, consistent with Section 6 of the Information Technology Act
- Considering the feasibility of hearing urgent matters by video conferencing.
- Providing facilities in a facilitation centre for e-filing and video conferencing as far as possible in buildings situated at the entrance of court complexes, ensuring that the facilities are regularly sterilised,
- If such buildings are not available, considering installing porta-cabins at entrances,
- Providing facilities for e-filing, scanning, and uploading as far as possible free of cost in urgent matters during the lockdown period.
- Providing at least two cubicles for video conferencing, with desktops, cameras, etc. , subject to need and availability of funds,
- Authority to use unspent funds from phase II of E-courts project for this purpose, subject to observing financial norms, and obtaining ex-post facto approval of the E-committee/ Department Of Justice,
- Encouraging advocates, Judges of the High Courts and judicial officers to take up hearings from their homes/ residential offices,
- Encouraging all High Courts to take their own decisions to utilise the available options for video conferencing.
- Observance of the requirement of courts conducting open hearings via video conferencing.
- Use of the latest software patch for automatic posting of cases in CIS 3.2.
- Implementation of Virtual Courts: Apart from virtual courts for e-challans under the Motor Vehicles Act, High Courts may consider the use of virtual courts for other summary cases. Any difficulties faced may be brought to the notice of the e-committee, which will enhance the software.
- Use of lock-down time for pending house-keeping activities like migration to CIS 3.2 wherever it is not done so far.
- Any other item with the permission of the Chair.
Dr. Justice Chandrachud informed the participants about an e-filing module as it is in the advanced stage of development in the Supreme Court. Justice Chandrachud suggested about e-filing module that has been developed for trial courts and that the High Courts may share the utilities which have been developed in their courts which can be deployed wherever they found it useful. Full use of facilitation centres for e-filing and creation of more such centres and video conferencing at the entrances of court complexes in portacabins was suggested. Equipment required or manpower could for the time being be deployed from the existing strength since all courts in a complex are unlikely to be functioning during the lockdown.
The Chairperson highlighted that a software patch has been developed for automatic posting of dates of hearing of cases in CIS 3.2, with a facility of bulk adjournment of cases during the lockdown and for sending SMSs to litigants and lawyers about the next dates. This may be immediately deployed to obviate visits by litigants and lawyers to the courts during this period.
Dr. Justice Chandrachud suggested that that the High Courts may use the unutilised funds from Phase II of the E-courts project for meeting immediate needs while observing financial norms. He assured that demands for funds or software will be promptly processed by the E-committee and submitted to the Department of Justice.
The work from home for the judicial officials and the advocates have been left to the concerned high courts to be decided upon according to their feasibility.Based on an assessment of technical issues like availability of sufficient bandwidth and facilities of hosting the video proceedings on dedicated servers, it was felt that the recordings should be hosted on-court web-sites by the next day and this would enable people to access the courts.
Dr. Justice Chandrachud appreciated the efforts of all the concerned officials of all courts under the guidance of the Chairpersons of the Computer committees of the High Courts. Chairpersons agreed to start working on the areas agreed upon.
The following Chairpersons participated in the meeting:
- Telangana HC: Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan, The Chief Justice
- Patna HC: Justice Sanjay Karol, The Chief Justice
- Allahabad HC: Justice Anjani Kumar Mishra
- Bombay HC: Justice N. M. Jamdar
- Calcutta HC: Justice Sanjib Banerjee
- Chhattisgarh HC: Justice Manindra Mohan Shrivastava
- Delhi HC: Justice Rajiv Shakdher
- Gujarat HC: Justice Bela M Trivedi
- Himachal Pradesh HC: Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan
- Jharkhand HC: Justice Harish Chandra Mishra
- Jammu & Kashmir HC: Justice Rajesh Bindal
- Karnataka HC: Justice Aravind Kumar
- Kerala HC: Justice A. Muhamad Mustaque
- Madras HC: Justice T S Sivagnanam
- Meghalaya HC: Justice Hamarsan Singh Thangkhiew
- Manipur HC: Justice Kh. Nobin Singh
- Madhya Pradesh HC: Justice Satish Chandra Sharma
- Orissa HC: Justice Biswajit Mohanty
- Punjab & Haryana HC: Justice Ajay Tewari
- Rajasthan HC: Justice Arun Bhansali
- Sikkim HC: Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan
- Tripura HC: Justice S. Talapatra
- Uttarakhand HC: Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari