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National Judicial Cloud Need of the Hour

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Dr-Justice-G-C-Bharuka

Dr Justice G C Bharuka

Inadequate digitisation of the judicial process undertaken by subsequent governments and unavailability of instant and updated data on the case pendencies have resulted in undue delays in the delivery of justice and mounting costs for the litigants, Dr Justice G C Bharuka writes. Excerpts from one of his recent write-ups, where he advocates adoption of Cloud Computing by the judiciary without any further delay

In order to understand the concept of “National Judicial Cloud” we have to first understand and analyse the structure, objectives, weaknesses and the needs of the Indian Judicial System.

Under the Constitution of India, Judiciary is one of the three pillars of governance. Though it is an integrated system, still for jurisdictional and administrative purposes under the Constitutional scheme, three types of Courts are envisaged, namely, the Supreme Court of India, 24 High Courts for the respective states and union territories and about 15,000 subordinate courts with defined jurisdictions spread across the country.

These subordinate courts are located in almost 3,000 towns. Six hundred of these towns are district headquarters and the remaining are talukas or sub-districts.

Though we do not have dependable up-todate data available in public domain, based on whatever data is available, there are more than three crore cases pending for adjudication in our courts. Some of them are pending even for decades. Ninety per cent of these cases are pending in subordinate courts and majority of such cases involve rural masses. It means at least six crore families of the country are locked up in litigations of one or the other nature.

Judicial-CloudThe gradual failure of Indian courts to provide timely justice has been there since the beginning of the post-Independence era. The National Commission constituted for the review of working of the Constitution, headed by Justice M N Venkatachaliah, former Chief Justice of India, in its report in 2002 observed, “About half a century of the Constitution at work has tossed up many issues of the working of the judiciary, particularly disturbing has been the chronic and recurrent theme of the near-collapse of the judicial trail-system, its delays and mounting costs. The glorious uncertainties of the law have frustrated the aspirations for an equal, predictable and affordable justice.”

In 2001, the Supreme Court of India had warned that “the time is running out for doing something to solve the problem which has already grown into monstrous form. If a citizen is told that once you resort to legal procedure for realisation of your urgent needs, you have to wait and wait for 23 to 30 years, what else is it if not to inevitably encourage and force him to resort to extra-legal measures for realising the required relief?…” {Gaya Prasad v. Pradeep Srivastava, (2001) 2 SCC 604, pr.19}.

Efforts for Reform

In order to resolve problem of judicial delays during the last 50 years, the suggestions given by various expert bodies were: (i) certain legislative changes in the procedural and substantive laws, (ii) imparting of better training to the judicial officers, (iii) effective supervision over the activities of the court staff, (iv) increasing court strength by working out an objective policy, (v) providing better salary, perks and other facilities to the Judicial Officers and court staff, (vi) use of ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution Systems’ (ADR) and (vii) computerisation of courts.

As per the reports of the expert bodies, the parliament has, from time to time, made necessary changes in the procedural and substantive laws. Twenty-four judicial academies, including the National Judicial Academy at Bhopal, have been established for training of the judges and the court staff. Further, the Judges and the court staff have been provided higher salaries, perks and other recommended facilities. Apart from this, for promoting ADR, appropriate legislative mechanism has been created. According to the policy framed by the Government, court strength is being increased by 20 per cent every year.

The Need

It is fundamental that for identification of trends in court performance, the country needs online capturing of basic data of all the courts, so that certain standards can be laid down. Such standards can be used for automated evaluation of court performance, planning for future needs, and strategising for new reform efforts. Basic data can further allow planners to assess relative success rates of different reforms on an objective, rather than purely subjective, basis. Judicial data is also essential for budgetary planning purposes, such as for future increase in the number of courts, judges, staff, and related infrastructure. If budgetary planning is done without the benefit of statistical information, future needs cannot be scientifically worked out.

It is fundamental that for identification of trends in court performance, the country needs online capturing of basic data of all the courts, so that certain standards can be laid down

Subordinate Judiciary

aid-of-Cloud-ComputingUnder Article 235 of the Constitution the power of control over subordinate courts vests in the respective High Courts. For effective management, supervision and related policy decisions for any institution, availability of the requisite information is the core requirement. Over the time, the age‐old manual system of collecting and processing the required management-related information of subordinate courts is becoming increasingly difficult.

The country does not have any centralised online system of collecting and processing the correct and updated data regarding the number of subordinate courts, its human resources, available infrastructure and above all about the details of case pendencies, the workflow and judge’s performance. Mostly, collection and compilation of data takes unduly long time. Many a time data are faulty, inaccurate and manipulated. Data are not even sufficient to formulate policies for developing best practices, conforming to domestic need of timely justice. This archaic system is consuming enormous valuable resources by way of manpower, time, paper, stationary, postage, etc. The digitised system can overcome this entire futile, outdated, cumbersome and expensive data collection. This process will facilitate online availability of all data in the required formats ‘anywhere, anytime”.

Unfortunately, benefits of technology could not be fully harnessed for providing timely justice and other related services because of the inept capacities of the implementing agency. More than `1,000 crore provided by the Central and state governments have been spent in the last two decades, but nothing fruitful in terms of justice acceleration could be achieved. However, now proposals have been given for reinventing the wheel. Experience shows that the implementing agency lacks capacity, capability, as also accountability. They are answerable to none for their failures, as Article 311 of the Constitution give them full protection.

The government, particularly the Department of Justice, should bear in mind that now there is no need for repeatedly discovering the causes and solutions for combating the judicial delays and other systematic vices. Change management and ICT training is no more an issue for the Indian subordinate courts. These aspects have already been taken care of in the first phase of the e-Courts project. All the judicial officers are using laptops and internet facilities which were provided to them in 2007 under the e‐Courts project. It is time to act with determination to deliver, which, with the resources we have in the country, is quite feasible.

Adoption of Cloud Computing

Looking at the present scenario, the ICT infrastructure and culture in our subordinate courts across the country, I feel that Cloud Computing is the best technology-based solution for optimising judicial productivity and formulating policy decisions for combating the judicial delays through automation of various processes and capacity building of the judges. This will be the most cost effective and convenient to use. In most of the states, internet data cards with arrangement with the private service providers have been given to the judicial officers, which can be used both by the judges, as also their staff working in the court halls. Because of extensive training given under the e-Courts project itself, the judges and the court staff will not have any difficulty in using internet-based user-friendly application.

Judicial reform, with the aid of Cloud Computing, can very much happen if the Government decides to implement it by availing the services of IT companies under well formulated Service Level Agreements

However, in deploying the Cloud Computing solution, development of a welldefined application based upon the Indian judicial process is most challenging. I believe that though the implementing agency has been, time and again, purchasing and providing the latest hardware in the Indian courts, it has not been able to develop a Cloud-based centralised software, which could cater to the needs of the entire judiciary and its management.

Under the close and expert supervision of some of the techno-jurists, a core team of computer engineers, after several years of continuous efforts, have been able to successfully develop a web-based ready-touse, user-friendly application. It can easily cater to all the needs of the Indian judiciary for optimising its performance, providing public services and generating appropriate management-related reports and statements. It has already been successfully beta-tested in real-time environment in over 100 courts. Therefore, no further time is required to be wasted for this purpose.

Conclusion

In my opinion, Judicial reform, with the aid of Cloud Computing, can very much happen if the Central Government decides to implement it by availing the services of reputed Indian IT companies under well-formulated Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The Central Government as a measure of policy has opted for public-private partnership (PPP) models in several premiere e-Governance projects, like passport, company affairs, income tax, railways, civil aviation, banking, etc. The Government can adopt the same model for the judiciary as well.

It will be relevant to state here that ‘Administration of Justice’ falls under Entry 11A of the Concurrent List. Therefore the Union has both the Legislative as also Executive competence to undertake the necessary measures for judicial reforms.

It is high time that appropriate technology should be deployed in at least the subordinate courts to provide timely justice, without loss of any further time. I am sure, if so done, results may start emerging within a couple of months. Otherwise, no amount of funding and its spending through incompetent hands, as being presently done, will yield any result and ‘We the People’ will continue to hanker for timely justice.

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