Justice Amidst Pandemic

“Justice delayed is justice denied”, is a well known legal maxim. It literally means that, If a legal redressal is not forthcoming on time, then it is effectively the same as not having any redressal at all. True. But where does the scope of justice linger in a pandemic situation in the Indian judicial system?

Justice seems to be an ‘endless wait’ for many in India, especially the poor. The pendency of cases, lack of transparency, inadequate number of judges and lawyers and corruption, can be counted as some of the reasons that lead to the problem.

The situation further worsens when the country is hit by adversity and this is clearly evident at present. Considering the current spread of COVID-19, the Indian judiciary has chosen to only deal with cases that require immediate action or are unavoidable. Differentiating between cases that are ‘urgent’ and ‘not-so-urgent’ seems arbitrary because the Supreme Court has not generated any information or instructions regarding what constitutes an ‘urgent case’.

To cope with the situation the Supreme Court is further laying its hands on video-conferencing hearings to completely eliminate personal interactions. Surely the judiciary is making efforts to conduct itself during the pandemic, but India requires more than just a temporary change during a pandemic-like situation. The change should be a part of a continuous process and not just a tweak to attain short term goals.

The country definitely requires a ‘Judicial Revolution’. This might sound burdening and non-priority in the current health crisis, but this pandemic can act as an impetus in initiating a fundamental reinvention in the Indian judicial system.

A major step towards a judicial revolution should be the complete digitisation of the judicial processes. Several attempts have already been made by the government in attempts to digitise the judicial system. The National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG) and ‘E-Seva Kendras’ are some examples. But these attempts do not suffice the need of the country. More steps need to be taken to bring a change. The judiciary requires a ‘unified protocol’. This unified protocol shall have four major components.

  1. Component A’ would be the development of a user-friendly software or application, which would work on both, smartphones and feature-phones.
  2. Component B’ would involve ensuring that the software or app is accessible to all, i.e, the litigants, lawyers, and the judges, and that too at all levels of the judiciary.
  3. Component C’ would be making it obligatory for all the lawyers to electronically file documents that judges can access via laptops and other devices.
  4. Finally, ‘Component D’ would require the Government to ensure that the quality of services provided through this protocol does not lack proper execution and human judgment. This can be done by establishing a committee, which would look into the smooth functioning of the protocol, tracking of the cases and holding concerned functionaries accountable.

Digitisation of judicial processes is the solution to the majority of the problems in our judiciary. It will definitely result in better, faster management and administration of affairs, reduction in corruption and most importantly it will be far more convenient for everyone. It will help us cut-down all the unnecessary paper-work and induce a sense of consciousness for the time in one and all.

Isaac Newton spent a year in quarantine during the ‘Great Plague of London’ and was able to change the world with his discoveries. During this lockdown time, the judiciary along with the help of IT professionals can surely experiment and initiate a change that will revolutionise the Indian Judicial system forever.

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